DUNEDIN — After months of criticism coming from residents and merchants frustrated by the downtown paid parking pilot program, city leaders have come up with some changes.
Along with adding more free spots and better signage, the city has streamlined parking fees. And within the next two weeks, dilapidated free lots will be resurfaced with asphalt millings.
City staff say feedback from residents and merchants — as well as data provided by the company that manages the electronic parking meters — inspired the changes, attempting to make the system less complicated and more user-friendly.
The Tampa Bay Times asked economic development director Bob Ironsmith and planning and development director Greg Rice to shed some light on the now and later of parking downtown.
When and where can I park for free? If I can't, how much will I have to pay?
Free parking is available 24/7 in five places: Dunedin Station Square lot, at the corner of Douglas Avenue and Scotland Street; the lot at 715 Edgewater Drive, between Main Street and Scotland Street; Station Square Lot at 362 Scotland St.; the corner of Wood Street and Douglas Avenue and at 510 Main St. Edgewater Park offers free two-hour parking 24/7. Spaces from Broadway west to St. Joseph Sound and those from Highland Avenue east to Skinner Boulevard are free Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Otherwise, all parking is $1.50 per hour with no time limits. Disabled parking permit holders are exempt from all charges and can park anywhere, anytime.
Is there a discount for residents or employees who work downtown?
Residents are eligible for a 20 percent discount on parking fees, as well as the waiving of convenience fees when using the Park Mobile phone app to pay. Registration for the discount can be completed at parkdunedin.com or in person at the Planning Development Building, 737 Louden Ave. Employees can buy a three-month pass for $45, which permits them to park anytime in any spot west of Broadway or east of Highland Avenue.
Why does the city need paid parking?
As the city grows, parking lots currently leased by the city are being snatched up by developers.
Because so much parking will eventually be unavailable, Rice says, the city is using the paid parking program to "create a funding source that will ensure adequate parking can be paid for."
Rice says the program prevents the raising of taxes or use of Penny for Pinellas funds to build a parking garage, placing a large portion of financial burden on tourists who pay to park while visiting.
How much net revenue has the city made on paid parking so far?
According to a report by city finance director Joe Ciurro, the city brought in more than $50,000 in the first quarter of the program. He says that number is expected to grow in the next two quarters because of spring training and warmer weather that are sure to bring in hordes of visitors. The city will also begin citing illegally parked vehicles in the second quarter, bringing in more revenue. In the first quarter, violators were only given written warnings.
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When will the city revisit the topic of paid parking and how will it be evaluated?
The yearlong paid parking pilot program was implemented last October. City commissioners and staff will hold a review at the end of each quarter, the second of which will end in March. A performance matrix adopted by the City Commission — involving data on revenue, turnover and occupancy — will be used along with public input to evaluate the program's success. The next round of discussion and changes to the program should be presented by April.
Ironsmith and Rice, who have headed up the program from the beginning, say the recent changes were made in an effort to make the system work better for everyone — residents, merchants, workers and visitors.
"We know paid parking has made a lot of people upset, but that is certainly not what we intended," Rice said. "Going forward, we will continue to be open to any and all suggestions residents have for us."