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Date of Issue: April 23, 2008

Committee taking new look at parking meters

Did you know
Carl Magee invented the parking meter in Oklahoma City in 1935. The first meter was installed in the city that year. One of the newest innovations is a meter that takes a photograph of a vehicle's license plate when the purchased time has expired. Another meter sends a warning to a cell phone when time is about to expire, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“Parking meters,” Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale said, repeating his two-word partial solution for parking problems in the city.

For emphasis, Speciale spelled the words - slowly.

Meters, he said, may not be a panacea for the city’s parking problems, but meters would help on commercial Bridge Street, on the Historic Bridge Street Pier and for several public spaces in the vicinity.

City officials, residents and business owners have been discussing a variety of approaches to remedying a parking crunch in Bradenton Beach, including increasing the number of spaces with two-hour parking limits.

On April 14, members of the city’s ScenicWAVES parking subcommittee gathered at city hall to continue the discussion, which turned to the two-hour limit.

Speciale said that without meters, enforcement could be costly and the two-hour limit spots would probably not achieve the city’s goals.

“You want movement of cars,” Speciale said, adding, “but if you let them have free parking everywhere, cars are going to sit on Bridge Street and no one else is going to be able to park there.”

Limiting free parking to two hours is also “really hard for us to enforce - not legally, but manpower wise,” the chief added.

“I don’t have an issue with it,” Lisa Marie Phillips, the city’s project and program manager, said, referring to the concept of meters in the Bridge Street area.

City Commissioner Janie Robertson recalled previous objections to meters, but noted that people mostly opposed meters for beach parking.

“Perhaps what we do is suggest meters go in on the Bridge Street overlay [district] and that’s where you put the meters,” she said.

Committee members did not vote on meters, but agreed to continue the discussion.

Committee members also discussed directing motorists to free parking in the city.

Including the large parking lots at Coquina Beach and additional smaller lots and Bridge Street, there are about 248 available public parking spaces in the city during the day and 267 spaces in the evening, said committee member Pat Gentry.

“The recognized problem is no one knows where they are,” Gentry said.

Gentry, Speciale and committee member Connie Drescherhave worked together on directing people to free parking. They proposed last week that the city erect a series of signs modeled on the international symbol for parking - a squareblue sign with a big, white “P.” Gentry suggested adding “Free.”

“You want to do that,” Speciale told the committee. “If you get any visitors from Europe or anything, they are going to expect to see that sign.”

The chief and Gentry added that existing signs prohibiting parking in rights of way would remain.

The next task would be to tour the city and identify potential locations for the signs, Gentry said. She estimated each sign would cost about $20.

Discussion also focused on the committee’s proposed “Trolley-Up” campaign, an effort to promote ridership on the fare-free Island trolley, as well as use of public transportation to and from the Island.

Phillips planned to pitch the “Trolley-Up” campaign to the Manatee County Tourism Development Council this week, as well as seek letters of support from the Island cities.

The campaign has multiple components, including circulating material on trolley stops and bus routes to the Island, possibly extending trolley hours and creating a coupon program in which trolley riders redeem a ticket for a discount or freebie at participating Island businesses. Island trolleys will be soon be outfitted with transfer-fare machines because the vehicles may sometimes be used on other routes. That equipment, according to Phillips, could be used to dispense coupons to trolley riders.

The next meeting of ScenicWAVES parking committee will take place at 2 p.m. Monday, May 5, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

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