By Mary Hladky
More parking meters soon will be installed in downtown Boca Raton.
The City Council on March 7 gave staff the go-ahead to install 86 meters on portions of four streets that currently don’t have them.
Fifty-two of the metered spaces will be on East Palmetto Park Road from Southeast Fifth Avenue to about one block west of Mizner Boulevard. Thirty-four spaces will be located immediately to the south of that Palmetto Park Road section on Royal Palm Road and Southeast Third and Fourth avenues.
The area is being added to the city’s authorized meter zone, which covers most of downtown. It runs from Northeast Eighth Street south to Southeast 11th Street, and from Mizner Boulevard west to Dixie Highway, as well as three blocks that are immediately west of Dixie.
Mayor Scott Singer stressed that the new meters aren’t a revenue-generating maneuver by the city. They are intended to prevent drivers from grabbing a free parking spot and leaving their cars there for many hours while others are desperately trying to find a space.
“It is designed to assure turnover of a limited good,” he said.
Contributing to the downtown parking problem, City Manager Leif Ahnell said, is that residents of and visitors to downtown residential buildings are taking up street parking rather than using spaces in their buildings’ garages.
Stephen Timberlake, the city’s special projects manager, said staff wanted to meter all four streets at once to prevent drivers from gaming the system.
If meters were installed only on Royal Palm Road, for example, drivers could be expected to avoid that street and park instead in free spots along Palmetto Park Road. That has been a problem elsewhere as the city has turned free spaces into metered ones.
The city has long recognized it doesn’t have enough downtown parking. A consultant found in 2018 that the downtown will be short 425 spaces by 2023 and up to 750 spaces by 2040.
To address that deficit, city officials wanted to build a downtown parking garage. But that plan was thwarted when property owners were unwilling to sell their land to the city.
The garage issue was resolved when Brightline selected Boca Raton as the location of a train station. Its garage will have 455 spaces, with some dedicated to Downtown Library patrons. The rest will be available to both Brightline passengers and the public when the station is completed later this year.
Even so, the garage along the FEC railroad tracks won’t meet the needs of people who want to park very close to their downtown destinations. It’s about 0.4 mile walking from the station site to the Yard House restaurant at the south end of Mizner Park. Pedestrians would have to cross busy Dixie and Federal highways.
Since December 2020, those parking at downtown metered spaces have been able to use the ParkMobile app that allows them to select how long they want to park and pay for it using their cell phones. The app lets drivers know when their parking time is about to expire and they can extend it from wherever they are.