By Anna Bryson
If you’re just back in town for the fall semester, you are bound to notice one big change in downtown St. Petersburg: Parking prices in the area have jumped 50 percent.
The city increased the $1 an hour parking meter rate to $1.50 on Beach Drive, and ended free parking on Central Avenue on weekends.
They also extended meter hours until 10 p.m. on Beach Drive and 8 p.m. on Central Avenue.
Downtown residential permits in business areas will be scaled back, allowing residents to park for unlimited periods of time at no charge. Paid parking around campus will not be affected.
The new parking regulations were created following a downtown and Edge District parking study completed in May.
“The intent of increasing the rates for the short-term time period is to help mitigate demands in these areas by encouraging people to park in areas that are cheaper and improving turnover,” the study said.
The city also implemented one free hour parking at Sundial, Municipal Services Center and South Core parking garages, which city planners hope will influence the usage of parking garages, leaving street parking for those willing to pay for it.
Meanwhile, the increased meter hours and fees has faced stark criticism from downtown visitors and shop owners, who spoke to The Crow’s Nest.
Mickey’s Cafe & Organics owner, Mickey Paleologos, said the new parking regulations have hurt his business tremendously.
“It’s a huge problem and lots of people circle around and can’t find a spot. A lot of people just don’t come downtown anymore,” Paleologos said.
USF St. Petersburg students also complain about a lack of parking on downtown’s Central strip.
Junior criminology and psychology major, Charlotte Samson, expressed her frustration with the new parking prices, and said it deters her from going to some of her favorite coffee shops on Central Avenue to study and do homework.
“Parking in St. Pete was already hard enough. I used to go to the coffee shops to get homework done, but now I don’t,” she said.
Senior psychology major, Jared Bolton, works at a restaurant on Beach Drive NE, and said he has felt the pain of St. Petersburg’s crowded street parking situation.
“We all pay a lot of money to park just to work and when St. Pete has events that we don’t know about, we either have to pay more or we drive around forever trying to find parking and we end up late to work,” Bolton said.
The city collects $8 million a year from parking. With the new regulations, an additional $500,000 will be added to city revenue, and the money collected will be used to create more paid parking, as part of the city’s long term plan.
City planners hope that by raising prices of street parking, downtown visitors will be encouraged to park in the garages.
Information for this article was gathered from WFLA.