By Mary Hladky
Parking meters will not be installed in the Brightline station garage and nearby surface parking, at least for now.
City Council members on Feb. 14 rebuffed a city staff recommendation to install meters intended to prevent Brightline passengers from commandeering free parking spaces set aside for Downtown Library patrons.
The construction of the Brightline station and 455-space garage adjacent to the library eliminated a major portion of the parking lot that had been used by library patrons.
To make up for that, a portion of the parking garage was set aside for their use at no cost.
But with the launch of Brightline service to Boca Raton in December, city staff feared that passengers would grab the free spots to avoid Brightline parking fees. Parking outside the free spots costs $7 if purchased with a train ticket in advance or $15 without advance purchase.
While that apparently hasn’t happened yet, City Manager Leif Ahnell warned it could become a problem as Brightline increases the number of trains stopping at the Boca station and later this spring begins offering service to Orlando. Both are expected to increase Brightline ridership.
Under the staff proposal, library users would park in one of about 240 metered spaces in the garage, in remaining surface spaces on the north and east sides of the library and in a new surface parking area between Northwest Fourth and Third streets south of the library.
After parking, they would go to a kiosk in the library, punch in their parking space number and be validated for free parking. The process was intended to be quick and easy.
But the idea drew immediate objections from some council members and Friends of the Boca Raton Public Library.
Friends treasurer Cyndi Bloom said that when she has used the garage, only about two other cars were using the library parking spaces. Brightline riders exiting the trains are using spaces in Brightline’s section of the garage, she said.
“What problem are we trying to resolve?” she asked. “I am pleading with you, take your time and think this through.”
The installation of meters would give library users the impression they now must pay to park, she said.
She also foresaw problems when a large number of people attend special events at the library, such as a line of people waiting to use the kiosk.
Asked if any library patrons have complained about not being able to park in the free spots, Deputy City Manager George Brown said he had not heard of any.
Yvette Drucker was the only council member who agreed with city staff that library users likely will face problems parking as Brightline ramps up operations.
Deputy Mayor Andrea O’Rourke urged staff not to rush to install meters and instead add signage to make clear who should park where. Council members Monica Mayotte and Fran Nachlas agreed.
“I don’t want to make our library patrons’ life miserable,” Mayotte said. “It should be easy for them.”
With the consensus clear, the council voted unanimously not to consider the proposal for now. The council can revisit it if warranted.