I’m going to try to avoid the question and briefly talk about my view of paid parking schemes and beach access. While I dislike paid parking, when I’m paying, I also understand why this may eventually become necessary. When there are not enough spaces to supply the community need, someone will be denied access. Are we at that point? Should we ever consider parking as a revenue generator? In my opinion, we aren’t at that point, but the day is approaching.
Our current commission is, once again, approaching parking from the revenue generation point of view. Seeing a gate to accessing a resource like the beach as a revenue tool, in my opinion, eventually leads to future potential for waste. It is fairly easy to add a tax, creating a cost to access, but difficult to remove a tax. I would prefer to see parking control (time limits) as a way to recirculate vehicles or insure access to parks, restaurants and activities at Main Beach, assuming we’re talking about paid parking at Main Beach. The picture below is from earlier today at about 3:45PM. It was overcast and cool out, but you can see available space. Restaurant use would peak in the evening and beach use should peak in early afternoon. The variety of uses will increase use of the park, but before Salt Life or an improved Sandbar/Salty Pelican, businesses like the PuttPutt were not quite as busy.
Sooner or later, we will see increased control of parking as the population increases west of the bridge. I see this as a mixed blessing, with tourism dollars and revenue from daily visitors making improvements on the island possible. I would say to anticipate the eventuality of parking controls, but please try to avoid seeing any kind of parking control in terms of revenue generation. Companies specializing in providing equipment will justify charging for parking. The justification….if it happens in the rest of Florida, it must be a great idea. As a former commissioner, I would say politicians are not usually great stewards of tax dollars. The stakeholders in parking are the public using the park, but also the businesses dependent on reasonable access. Both the public and surrounding business will ask or beg for help when the time comes.
Parking is a key piece of the transportation puzzle. As a limited resource that’s often in high demand, SDOT manages on-street parking to:
- balance competing needs (transit, customers, residents, shared vehicles),
- move people and goods efficiently,
- support business district vitality, and
- create livable neighborhoods.