Sarasota plans to install parking meters downtown

Officials expect to install the meters within the next 12-18 months

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Sarasota officials are planning to install parking meters downtown. It’s a controversial idea that didn’t work so well when tried before – so city leaders are being cautious.

The city is experiencing remarkable growth with new hotels and apartment buildings near downtown. As a result, city officials say parking spaces will soon be hard to come by.

Within the next 12 to 18 months, the city plans to install parking meters downtown. “It’s important that people realize this is not intended to create problems. Certainly change is a little challenging for everybody,” Parking Division Manager Mark Lyons said.

It would be a tiered system. Premium spaces would be metered, and spots a few blocks away would either be discounted or free.

The idea isn’t new. Back in 2011, the city invested $500,000 in parking meters. But they weren’t user friendly. After many complaints, officials removed the meters.

Some business owners are not happy about this new proposal. “That’s nothing that I like as a business owner  … (because of) the customers. They have to pay, and it’s not going to benefit the business owners,” Business Owner Ulf Sandstrom said.

Customers like Duane Buckmaster agree. “I think it’s dopey,” Buckmaster said. “We get enough taxes out of the residents here in Sarasota, why do we need meters here?”

However, business owner Ron Soto is excited about the meters. He thinks it could bring more customers into his door. “If they put the parking meters here on Main Street, it turns over the cars. It’s good for the public,” Soto said.

In recent years the city has spent millions in taxpayer money to subsidize parking. That money pays for things such as maintaining garages and landscaping. Officials say that’s unfair to the taxpayers. So the money generated from the parking meters would take care of that, saving the city money, officials said.

The meters would be high-tech and would allow you to pay by phone, Lyons said. He said they could even send text notices when your meter is running out.

Officials are still working out the details. “We don’t want to go too fast; we want to make sure we have the right equipment, we have the right plan and its communicated thoroughly before its implemented,” Lyons said.

Right now it’s unclear how much this program will cost.

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