What can we do about beach side parking?

COMMENTARY

MILT THOMAS

Relocating the Farmer’s Market to solve parking issues? Nah.

Parking is to Vero’s beach side business district what immigration is to Congress – a problem crying for a solution that no one has the will to solve. There are permanent solutions — like a parking garage — but until then, we are left with temporary fixes that will only punt the hard choices to some future City Council.

One aspect of the immediate problem involves hotel and restaurant employees who need parking spaces when they go to work. Most workplaces do not have employee parking, so they must compete with shoppers for the limited number of spaces available on the street. This is a real problem for local business operators who need shoppers to survive and threatens the health of our local economy.

Everyone agrees that creating a few new spaces in no parking zones or moving the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning solves nothing. So where do we go from here?

Focusing on the employee parking issue, one approach under serious consideration at Tuesday’s upcoming City Council meeting will be to establish parking kiosks. Parking meters were abandoned long ago, so this is a high tech replacement. However, they are unlikely to be any more popular with Vero residents or tourists than they were the first time around. On top of that, they do nothing to alleviate the lack of parking, but cost money to install and maintain.

Three hour parking is standard and works for most shoppers. With parking kiosks, you simply pay with your credit card. But what if you work for eight hours? That is also simple. Employees can go out to their kiosk every three hours and add another three hours.  As a result, they can park all day. But what does that solve?

A much better solution is available that would eliminate the employee parking problem. It is called the AIMS Parking Management System. A police officer equipped with a small handheld electronic device, records the license plate number of every car parked on the street. At the end of three hours, if your car is still parked, you are ticketed automatically by computer — even if you move your car to another spot. No ticket writing, no appeal. No meters needed, but ticket prices start at $25 per violation and go up from there.

So where do we find a city that uses the AIM system? You need look no further than the City of Stuart.

Now if we decided to employ this system, what happens to employees who now must find an alternative to parking in the business district. How about a shuttle service that transports employees from lots where many spaces are available — Riverside Park and Jaycee Beach — to their jobs. Sound familiar? Yes, that was tried a few years ago with little success, but it was voluntary with no incentive to use the shuttle service. Now, with system like Stuart’s in place, the incentive is definitely there and it would be free to employees.

So why hasn’t this come up before? That would be a good question to ask at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Remember, it is called the AIMS Parking Management System.

2 comments

  1. Hi Milt. This is not the City’s problem to solve. Vero provides lots of parking on and near Ocean Drive, plus an officer to enforce the traditional, small-town parking rules.

    This is the merchants’ problem to solve. They can have convenient parking for their employees and their customers most of the time, but during the season, the merchants will have to make a choice. Oh, and they will have to cooperate with each other. That’s up to them.

    Thanks. Nick.

  2. The only solution to the lack of parking spaces in the central beach area, is a solution that adds more spaces. Trying to force people to pay for parking only makes them mad, and they’ll quit coming to the area. And expecting the merchants to foot the whole bill is unfair. The only solution I can see that will solve all of the problems in that area is to move the Farmer’s Market to Riverside Park, and build a two story parking garage for additional spaces. If the Farmers Market was expanded by adding the crafters (and whoever else might like to participate), like they do in Fort Pierce (which is well attended year ’round), the probability that it would become a destination attraction is fairly high, in my opinion. And building a parking garage using environmentally friendly architecture (which has been done in other towns), would blend in the structure and make it visually acceptable. So here we go: 1. Take a survey of the Farmers Market vendors to see if they are in favor (with the addition of the crafters and others), to moving to Riverside Park. Other activities could be added to help make it a great place to attend; such as kayak & SUP rentals, food trucks, and bands playing.
    2. Check with the right folks about any potential problems with the Farmer’s Market moving to Riverside Park.
    3. When all is clear, make the move absolutely as soon as possible.
    4. Send out for bids on the parking garage as soon as possible.
    5. Get that thing built! We need it as fast as can be reasonably accomplished.

    If we decide that this needs to happen, it will happen. But without the will of the people to drive it into action, we’ll continue to get the local politicians sitting on their hands and/or being beholden to certain interests. It takes the whole community speaking out to make these jokers act in our best interest instead of theirs.

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