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Do parking fees mean retail woes?St. Augustine merchants concernedBy CHAD SMITH | More by this reporter | firstname.lastname@example.org | Posted: Monday, November 17, 2008 ; Updated: 11:49 PM on Monday, November 17, 2008 A number of merchants along St. Augustine's popular St. George Street are worried that the city's traditional mix of people -- locals and tourists -- could be in jeopardy because of something Juan Ponce de Leon never worried about -- parking. Richard Pinto, who owns the St. George Street shops Sunburst Crystal and Far East Traders, has been a member of the City Commission's advisory board on parking and transportation for many years. Pinto said Sunday that since June, when the commission raised metered parking rates from 50 cents to $1.50, some local residents have been deterred from coming downtown, meaning their dollars stay at home with them. The economic downtown doesn't help business either. "What I'm afraid of, and what many other downtown owners are afraid of, is that we're being hit with a double whammy (of the economy and high parking rates)," he said. "A dramatic increase in the rates makes it worse for us than maybe it would be." When the commission raised the rates this summer, they said it might encourage both visitors and locals to use the parking garage on West Castillo Drive. Mark Litzinger, the city's comptroller, said there's some discontentment among locals about parking, estimating that 98 percent of the complaints his office receives on the subject come from them, as opposed to the 2 percent coming from tourists. "Parking is one of those things (that) people complain about all day long," Litzinger said. "It's just a fact." Along with the raised rates, the city introduced a pre-paid debit card, called the ParkNow card, that was aimed to help locals by letting them pay 50 cents an hour for up to two hours at a time. Litzinger said that, though the commission doesn't intend to lower the rates, the card will be accepted at the 1,200-space downtown parking garage in coming weeks. Daniel Sullivan, chairman of the Parking and Transportation Advisory Board, said its members unanimously support lowering the rate, and making the garage open to ParkNow cards is a step in the right direction. But the card should be more readily available to purchase in the first place, Sullivan said. Right now it's only available at the city's financial services office at 50 Bridge St. Also, most city residents simply don't know about the card, let alone where to find it, said City Commissioner-elect Nancy Sikes-Kline, who is vice chairwoman of the parking board. At the board's Oct. 22 meeting, the 11 members recommended that the city lower the price of metered parking to $1 as well as better promote the ParkNow card. After all, Sikes-Kline said, the point of the card was to "encourage locals to use those on-street spots to come (downtown) and do their shopping." After she is sworn in as a commissioner next month, Sikes-Kline said she hopes to work on hiring a consultant who can delve into how to most efficiently use the city's parking areas. In the meantime though, the goal is to make the most of the system as it is now. Business owners like Pinto fear they will continue to lose local clientele. He said the current parking rates amount to a "tax on people who come downtown," and since there are few entities there that are critical for people to get to regularly, like the courthouse, they could stop coming altogether. "(City officials) want it to be a living city," he said, "This is the kind of thing that actually threatens that, I believe."
+ 1 Rating Posted by: cptnbuzz at Nov. 17, 2008 at 3:34:10 am NO WAY. My wife and I never go in town to shop, or go to restaurants because the parking fees are outrageous. I sympathise with the business owners. They are right. They are loosing locals as customers. "Parking is one of those things (that) people complain about all day long," Litzinger said. "It's just a fact." This arrogant attitude makes it tough for businesses that need locals as well as tourists to stay in business.
+ 1 Rating Posted by: ORD81 at Nov. 17, 2008 at 3:58:59 am Mark Litzinger, the city's comptroller, said there's some discontentment among locals about parking, estimating that 98 percent of the complaints his office receives on the subject come from them, as opposed to the 2 percent coming from tourists. ______________________________________________________________________________________So to it seems the locals be d@mned according to the city... all we do is pay the taxes, at least the visitors don't complain..B/S I stopped shopping downtown 20 years ago when the greedy city started charging..
+ 1 Rating Posted by: safl1000 at Nov. 17, 2008 at 8:09:26 am I have lived in this area for 15 years, and in that time parking is the main source.It's good that after 5pm and Sunday is no parking fee. I have to say to the city, that what you do for a better life, it hurts others in making life.Cut back on the fee to $1.00, and more will locals will come. WE are a small city, with a big charge on parking, more than Tampa, and Miami to Park per hour.
Posted by: local4now at Nov. 17, 2008 at 8:28:26 am Obviously the people who made the decision about the parking downtown are not store owners that are Trying to make a living. 2 hours is Not enough time to have a decent meal AND shop. Their attempt to force visitors to go to the parking garage is Not working! They just go elsewhere, where parking is FREE
IMO, if the city would work out some sort of free transit loop around the historic district linked to the garage, they parking issues would eliminated.