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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Mayor Rick Baker says new parking meters hours won't deter downtown diners

ST. PETERSBURG- Mayor Rick Baker said a proposal to increase parking meter enforcement hours throughout much of downtown won't deter downtown diners.

City officials want to standardize meter enforcement hours from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. seven days a week. The changes likely will go into effect at the end of the month.

Currently, some meters are policed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., others until 8 p.m. and a handful demand your spare change through 11 p.m. The hours vary from street to street.

While the measure will reduce enforcement hours on a handful of streets, most of downtown, particularly near the rows of restaurants on Central Avenue, will see dramatically increased enforcement times.

The changes will help befuddled residents and visitors confused by the various parking enforcement hours, Baker said.

He pointed out that meters on busy Beach Drive must be paid until 11 p.m. these days.

"Why is it going to stop people from going to Central Avenue if it's not stopped people on Beach Drive?" he said.

Downtown restaurants, however, have struggled to fill their seats in recent months because of the economic downturn. Critics say increased parking enforcement will only encourage diners to eat out at restaurants with free parking, such as strips malls and eateries outside of downtown.

What's more, the standardization plan doesn't apply to maximum parking times, which will still vary from one hour, 90 minutes, two hours or three hours depending on where you park.

Read today's story on the proposed parking meter hours here.

Cristina Silva, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:54am]


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