ROBERT M. JONES
Editor’s note: After speaking at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, beachside resident Bob Jones sent the following letter to Councilman Val Zudans. Everyone on Council seems to agree with just about everyone else in Vero Beach that something needs to happen on this issue. That something can only happen if City Council makes it so.
Again, thanks for listening thoughtfully in yesterday’s Council Meeting as I advocated for a version of the Stuart parking solution and the Ocean Grill garage location. Indulge me to respond to a few of your comments and those of other meeting participants.
Patrons vs. Employees: I agree that parking solutions need to address the needs of both patrons vs. employees. However, if we do not enable parking that is adjacent to Ocean Drive shops and restaurants, we will not have patrons, the businesses will not remain vibrant and interesting, the hotels will not draw guests, and businesses will not need employees. As such, I think we must take steps to prevent all day employees and beach goers from consuming all the parking spaces adjacent to Ocean Drive shops. In reality, we have already made that decision with the current 2 or 3 hour restrictions; the only problem is that they can be gamed by wiping off the chalk or moving employee cars. The Stuart system solves this problem. Until we find additional capacity, we can consider defining the 3-hour/1-hour exit parking district in a way that balances patrons and employees, for example, no time limits on all or a portion of Cardinal and a few sections of Ocean Drive. By closing the gaming of the time limit, employees will have to work with their employers to find solutions, which is the most efficient way to problem solve taking into consideration the specifics of each employee’s situation and schedule.
Parking Kiosks: My main concern about parking kiosks along Ocean Drive is that they may not generate enough revenue in excess of cost to justify imposing paid parking, particularly at times when it is not needed to preserve patron access to shops. Given Vero’s seasonality pattern, average yearly utilization across all meters will be very low, thereby requiring fee levels and time windows sufficient to cover both the fixed and variable costs of the solution. It makes no sense to me that Vero commit to a high overhead solution simply to generate revenue to fund a shuttle or garage—a near zero overhead tax on businesses would be a better solution. We might discover that kiosks will not break even in Vero. While we cannot accurately measure the extent to which paid parking will deter patrons from shopping in the Ocean Drive district, reasonable people would agree that it will have a significant impact.
Stuart System Costs: The Stuart system does not use scanners. One parking attendant is able to cover the entire 3hr/1h exit parking district entering license plates into a single low cost wireless device. Sure, there may be scanning solutions that enhance productivity and accuracy, but they are not required. The attendant need not be a licensed police officer, and I suspect the cost need not be much more than the current cost of the attendants chalking tires. If Stuart can get by with one attendant and one wireless device, I can’t imagine that Vero would need more than two.
Trolley: Trolley utilization will be greater than the Riverside experiment was if the cycle adds only 10 minutes to the start and end of an employees workday, and the City ends their ability to game street parking. However, because of early morning and late night shifts, it may have to operate from 6 or 7 am to mid-night or 1 am. I like the idea of a trolley during peak high utilization periods used by employees, beach goers and longer-than-three hour patrons. I don’t like the idea of early morning/late night operations that has very low utilization and considerable liability insurance risks and do not think it reasonable for these employees to walk to JC Park in the dark. Of course we would have to find a way to pay for the trolley as I doubt it could generate significant revenue from user fees.
Ocean Grill Garage: It would be great if you or one of the City Managers could point me to the facts on the financial concept associated with the Ocean Grill parking lot proposal vs. other garage locations. I see many advantages of this location, including: the larger capacity of the structure, the highly centralized location right between the major hotels, and being adjacent to the Beachland Boulevard feeder street. It also consumes a waterfront location that would be a prime place to build a hotel, condos or another restaurant that would add to the parking challenge. It would not be a fair to compare the cost of this option to a garage on a lot the City already owns because there is an opportunity cost associated with owning that lot – in theory, it could be sold to offset the cost of the Ocean Grill garage. Some may advocate for adding several smaller garages, but it seems to me that fragmentation will have higher up-front and ongoing costs due to lower economies of scale. Further, it would seem easier to implement valet and trolley solutions in connection with a single garage vs. multiple ones.
Three Hour Time Limit: Last night I did take note of at least two business owners who viewed a hard three-hour parking time limit as not acceptable because they have customers that enjoy an extended shopping, spa and dining day. I have a hard time believing that this is anything but a very small subset of all shoppers. By implication, they must currently move their cars or brush off the chalk mark in between their spa and first glass of champagne. No solution is perfect, but I would not reject one simply because it does not work for a very small subset of the population. Find a specialized solution that works for these patrons, e.g., park at the spa’s hotel and get a courtesy valet ride to their other venues.
Strengthen Vero’s Two Urban Centers: I challenge you to reflect on my broader argument that we should strive to strengthen rather than fragment urban centers. The City Council and Management has the opportunity to provide considerable leadership and vision, based on resident input, over land use, transportation, parking, etc. Failure to provide this will perpetuate strip mall sprawl. Having fewer exciting and striving urban social centers strengthens the fabric of Vero.