Monday, November 24, 2008

Editorial: City should review parking plan now

Editorial: City should review parking plan now

Publication Date: 11/23/08

St. Augustine's new parking system is at odds with downtown merchants who want more shoppers and diners.

The merchants want system changes to encourage people to come downtown. They want the current $1.50 an hour parking rate reduced, more places to buy the discounted Park Now card, and four-hour meters street side, especially around the Plaza de la Constitucion.

City Comptroller Mark Litzinger oversees the parking system. The first phase began last December. The system became fully operational just recently. He says the system needs time before tinkering. His estimate is for a review in 2010 to give the system a full year of parking activity after full implementation.

The system includes:

* Two-hour parking along the Plaza, on other streets downtown, and by Flagler College.

* Four-hour parking in several city lots downtown.

* Park Now cards available weekdays only at the City Finance Center, 50 Bridge St. They provide a discounted rate of 50 cents an hour.

* A non-discounted parking rate of $1.50 an hour.

The city is making money for the general fund.

Figures provided by Litzinger for the 2007-2008 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, show:

* Park Now card sales totaled $36,000 in their first nine months. Litzinger estimates about 1,800 sold.

* The parking garage had 287,000 vehicles parked and revenue of $992,000. The garage rate is $1.25 an hour.

* The meter pay stations downtown produced $200,000 in revenue.

* The Community Redevelopment Agency designation for the area around the garage has resulted in enough revenue from an increment of the property tax revenue to pay for the $581,000 parking system and the $1 million annual debt service on the parking garage.

Parking revenues fund additional city services such as a downtown walking cop and traffic directional signs.

Litzinger said he is considering other places to sell the Park Now card but not tourist spots. "The Park Now card is a perk for local residents and for visitors who come here all the time," he said.

But, shouldn't the goal be to make all visitors frequent visitors? Would the Park Now card help that effort? Isn't that why Disney offers annual passes?

"The system is not about the money. It is about managing parking," Litzinger said. Bottom line: The city wants people to use the garage. Lowering the $1.50 rate would discourage that.

We're glad the system isn't burdening the city budget. But we share the merchants' concerns about the impact on the downtown economy and ultimately the tax base.

City Commissioner-elect Nancy Sikes-Kline, the city's Parking and Traffic Committee vice chair, says a consultant should evaluate the system now. She will ask the commission to support her suggestion after she is seated next month.

We agree with Sikes-Kline. Concerns should be evaluated as they arise and remedied as necessary. That's just good business sense.

Click here to return to story:

© The St. Augustine Record

No comments: