St. Augustine Looks to Tackle Traffic

Parking can be a problem for any city, but when that city is also a tourist destination, it can be a real problem. St. Augustine officials are working to address parking issues – especially in the historic district downtown – and got some help from residents.

At a Planning & Zoning Board meeting in late April, City Planning and Building Director Amy Skinner reviewed the results of a citizen survey on potential updates to the parking code.

“The city’s parking code has not been updated,” Skinner said. “Since we adopted a mobility plan, it is time to update the parking code.”

Skinner said in addition to aligning with the city’s mobility plan, the update code will address traffic and safety issues “and really (look) at economic development and environmental concerns as well.”

According to the survey, the lack of downtown parking lots, street parking and a dearth parking availability next to small businesses were respondents’ biggest concerns. The creation of satellite parking lots within walking distance to downtown was the most popular solution, with nearly 60% of respondents ranking it first in a list of four alternatives. Satellite parking lots with a shuttle bus drop-off was second, followed by satellite parking “with an organized and timely circulator (a bus or van that operates on a small circuit for public transport)” with riding a bike coming in fourth.

“I know it’s a large task,” Skinner said. “They’re very important issues for all involved –businesses, employees and people who live and work here.”

Planning & Zoning Board member Carl Blow said the response – 1,954 completed surveys – was “pretty amazing” and said it was very interesting.

“The gist of it is a lot of frustrated people,” he said. “The problem is I don’t know exactly how to address the problems.”

Blow also said because the city has so many visitors – many of them day-trippers from around the region – some residents stay away from the area.

“What I’m hearing now are a lot of comments (that people) are not going to St. Augustine anymore because it is too much of a hassle,” he said. “My fear for the business community is we turn into Daytona.”

For board member Charles Pappas, the comments that some respondents provided was the most interesting part of the survey.

“What I got out of the survey is questions,” he said. “What or which parking problems are we trying to solve?”

Pappas said a diversity of downtown businesses could help address some of the issues.

“I think we need to look to and make sure we keep a mix of businesses, a mix of convenience parking,” he said.

Also discussed was “dynamic pricing” for paid parking in lots and garages. Under a dynamic pricing model, the cost of parking changes based on availability, time of day and other factors.

“We are trying to achieve our goals of reducing traffic impacts and improving the quality of life for people living here,” Skinner said.