Downtown Sarasota Parking Program Begins This Week



The Parking Operations Division, Judicial Parking District and Downtown Parking District announced the rollout of the new downtown parking meter program is now in effect. In the midst of the ongoing debates amongst patrons, merchants, employees and city officials on paid parking implementation in Sarasota—first administered on St. Armands Circle, now on Main Street, Palm Avenue, Ringling Blvd. and the First Street Lot—the City’s Parking Manager Mark Lyons sat down to answer questions yesterday at Sarasota City Hall.  

Over the past seven years, he says, the Parking Division has worked to design a program that is “simple and sustainable,” and endorsed by downtown business associations, the Downtown Improvement District, urban planners, parking consultants and the Parking Advisory Committee (comprised of merchants, property owners and residents).  

Lyons notes that the 43 pay station machines and 35 pole-mount model meters now in effect Downtown—the same as those installed earlier this year in the St. Armands Parking District—were selected based on considerable public input and consensus that they are the most user-friendly technology available. Visitors can pay by credit card, debit card, coins or through the ParkMobile app. Reminders can be sent when parking session nears expiration and time can be extended via the app as well. “They’re as easy and convenient to use as an ATM,” says Lyons. 

When confronted about the $1.50/hour payment (with a small ParkMobile fee applied for each mobile transaction as well), Lyons acknowledges no one wants to pay for parking, including him, but believes it will ultimately improve service to citizens and benefit curbside merchants for Sarasota. “The Downtown parking program will increase availability and access to prime parking spaces for patrons, improve a higher turnover rate and create shorter walking distances to restaurants and stores and cut down on vehicles cruising around in search of parking,” he says, before adding that the City looked extensively into other cities throughout Florida—including Tampa, St. Petersburg, West Palm Beach, Miami Beach, Delray Beach and Hollywood—who already adapted to ParkMobile meters on their busy destination streets, and deemed the change “successful”. 

It’s still a tough pill to swallow for residents who have lived here only ever knowing parking to be free in these areas, or for those who recall the City’s former failed attempts at implementing paid parking. To this sentiment, Lyons notes that the State Street Garage and Palm Avenue Garage will still remain free for two hours, and “88% of the 4,000 on-street parking spaces will remain free around downtown.” And for quick stops—perhaps for a cup of coffee or an in-and-out errand—the first 10 minutes of paid parking is complimentary.

Lyons says that enforcement will be “soft” in the beginning, to help transitioning to the new program smoothly. A “One Time Ticket Waiver” will be offered for the first few months to those who receive a parking ticket for expired time. With a receipt of $25 or greater from a downtown business presented to the Parking Operations Division within 14 days, the citation will be waived. To be eligible, the receipt must be issued same day as the parking ticket.

Parking map courtesy of The City of Sarasota. Brochures with the map have been provided to downtown merchants for distribution.

Frequently Asked Questions about the paid parking program are posted on SarasotaFL.Gov

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