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Sarasota Tuesday, Jun. 14, 2022 1 week ago

Paid parking, Bay Runner data shows benefits for St. Armands BID

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The Sarasota parking manager tells the St. Armands BID board that paid parking and Bay Runner activities remain robust after season concludes.
by: Andrew Warfield Staff Writer

Paid parking programs at St. Armands Circle are paying dividends not only for the city of Sarasota but also for merchants in the St. Armands Business Improvement District.

City Parking Manager Mark Lyons told the St. Armands BID board of directors on June 7 that on-street metered parking and the 484-space, 3-year-old parking deck at Madison Drive and North Adams Drive not only performed well during season but also outpaced expectations in May.

The three-year-old city parking deck one block removed from St. Armands Circle is a partnership between the City of Sarasota and the St. Armands Circle Business Improvement District. (Andrew Warfield)

This was true despite the ridership of the 4-month-old Bay Runner trolley service between downtown and Lido Key, bringing visitors to the circle with no need to park.

“The on-street meter activity was still very, very strong,” Lyons said. “The garage took a slight dip, which is interesting because the garages in downtown took an even larger dip. I don't know what caused that. I think May last year might have been sort of a coming-out month after COVID, when there was as you might remember a lot of activity.”

Lyons credited the success of paid street parking to growing use of the city’s ParkMobile system, which allows drivers to avoid using parking meters by entering the parking zone number into a cellphone app.

The BID derives no revenue from paid parking, but its merchants reap the benefits of more available and convenient parking, even if for a cost. And that cost is low compared to other tourist destinations, Lyons said. The first two hours in the parking deck, in fact, are free.

Paid parking at St. Armands generated $131,528 in May, down 21% from $165,824 in April. In May 2021, parking there netted $96,069.

The deck cost $15 million to build, paid for in part by St. Armands commercial property owners who agreed to partner with the city by paying additional taxes for the facility. That also means the property owners are on the hook, in part, to pay off bonds sold to build the deck.

“I know we have spoken before and there’s a good chance (parking operations) will be in the black,” BID Chair Gregory Leonard said to Lyons. “I hate to put you on the spot, but we’re talking maybe $100,000 to $200,000?”

Drivers pay to park at St. Armands circle using one of the many payment kiosks. (Andrew Warfield)

Lyons concurred, adding, “We still have a couple of good months in front of us with the boat races and various activities out at circle, which I think will cause some bumps in activity and revenues. It’s not too hard to imagine that we're going to be in good shape.”

As for the Bay Runner, Lyons said ridership remains high even after season. In all, there have been 41,094 rides through May, with 14,267 in March and 14,291 in April. 

"In May, we went down to 12,536," Lyons said. "That's only a 14% drop after season, which I find to be really astonishing. I thought it would be much higher. The ridership on on the Bay Runner has been impressive, to say the least."

Per agreement with the city and the Florida Department of Transportation — all partners in the Bay Runner — the St Armands BID has allocated $50,000 of its projected $352,000 fiscal year 2023 budget to the trolley program.

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