By Sallie James
Motorists who park downtown may eventually have to feed a meter. But not yet.
The city is mulling a variety of options to deal with a downtown parking crunch that has become problematic, due to a mix of construction workers using existing spaces and high numbers of vehicles during the seasonal influx of visitors.
Exactly how to deal with the issue was the focus of a June 21 meeting of Boca Raton’s Community Redevelopment Agency. And so far, signed enforcement of time-limited spaces seems to be the way the city is leaning. For now.
Longer-term options could include construction of a $2.5 million parking garage and the use of a shuttle service to ferry people from downtown to off-site parking.
“There are two reasons for waiting,” said Scott Singer, CRA chairman and a city council member. “We haven’t put signage up throughout downtown and I would like to see how demand goes in the winter months. We do expect to have higher demand but we also expect some of the construction projects to be complete. It makes sense to incorporate the high part of the season before we make a decision.”
In April 2014, the CRA agreed to implement a short-term parking enforcement plan that included the installation of signs that designated parking times in the Sanborn Square and Royal Palm Place areas. As of June 30, 184 tickets were issued, 86 of which were timed parking violations, or 43 percent, according to City Manager Leif Ahnell’s report.
The consensus was that the efforts improved customer parking but employee parking in the areas was still in short supply.
Without additional staff, they went from 364 to 529 monitored spaces under the temporary parking enforcement program, according to Ruby Childers, the CRA’s downtown manager. However, revenues dropped by 12 percent due to staffing reassignments, she added. The system requires the manual marking of vehicles.
“We reallocated staff from metered areas and that minimizes the ability to help customers with the meters and minimizes a presence to help encourage compliance,” Childers explained.
Additional funds have to be budgeted to restore full enforcement, she said.
Intermediate solutions include:
• Purchasing license plate recognition software to determine which cars have overstayed their allowed parking limits, $25,000
• Restriping and numbering existing parallel parking spaces, $25,000
• Installing additional signage, $25,000
• Long-term solutions for downtown parking, in the next three to five years, include the construction of a parking garage and the installation of meters, according to Ahnell’s report.
According to Assistant City Manager Mike Woika, city staff and the Downtown Advisory Board agreed to post and enforce two-hour and three-hour parking limits on some streets in the downtown area to see if it made a difference.
”The medium- and long-term phases were what was discussed at the CRA/workshop meeting and could include off-street parking (garages), shared-use parking, additional on-street parking, and enhanced enforcement,” Woika said. “Downtown seems to have the most parking concerns. Mizner Park and Palmetto Place each have some parking challenges.”
Ahnell’s take on the overall issue: Parking will be an evolution.