Parking meters are coming to downtown Sarasota again.
Despite complaints from merchants and residents, city commissioners gave staff the green light to shop for parking meters. The city plans to add 458 parking meters along Main Street and part of Palm Avenue and Ringling Boulevard by mid-2017. Parking would cost $1 an hour from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
The city parking manager Mark Lyons says once the city narrows down a few choices the meters will be stationed somewhere for the public to try out.
Lyons says with 3,000 hotel rooms, apartments and condos coming on line, paid parking helps manage growth. Visitors and merchants disagree.
“Thirty percent of all the traffic we see out there has been proved are people looking for a parking space. Why not make space available on these blocks and not have them driving around and not frustrated trying to find a space?” says Lyons.
“I will probably stop coming so much,” says Susan Royston, visiting from downtown from Venice. She adds, “You may not spend as much time to eat and shop, just come and go. You factor that into the cost of coming down.”
“This is simply a revenue grab this will not solve the situation of not having parking space,” says Chip Beeman, owner of Pastry Art and Main Bar.
Beeman is a member of the Downtown Merchants Association. He surveyed 400 business, 140 responded and 126 or 85 percent were against parking meters.
Beeman says, “I don’t think we need to try a program that’s failed several times.”
The city tried meters in 2011 and removed them within 6 months due to public complaints and technical problems. Lyons says the city spent $420,000 on the installation of 47 pay stations and more than 100 meters. The meters brought in $275,000 in revenue. The meters were sold back to the manufacturer for $25,000 says Lyons. The city’s loss totaled $120,000.
Beeman asks, “What makes them think there will be anything different this time?”
Beeman says some merchants indicated in the survey they lost 20 percent to 40 percent in sales when meters were installed from October 2011 to May 2012.
City officials say the new meters will take up 11 percent of the parking spaces downtown, the rest will remain free including the parking garage. The city will reassess the program after a year and determine then if the meters should be extended to adjacent streets or the parking fee raised.
St. Armand’s will have parking meters installed by the end of 2018 in conjunction with a new parking garage. The meters will help pay for the parking garage.
The city is also considering parking meters for the Rosemary and Cultural Districts, Lido Beach and Ben Franklin Boulevard and the Southside Village Area.
(© 2016 WTSP)