SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - It’s been nearly two months since the City of Sarasota rolled out paid parking in Downtown Sarasota and the city says it’s already generated nearly $100,000. But what does the public think?
First things first, how do you work the new meters? If the screen is dark when you walk up, just hit the green activate button. Then you’ll hit “Tap to Start Purchase" and make sure you have your license plate number because it’ll ask you for it.
When you type it in, press “OK” and it will verify the status. Then it’ll ask you how much time you need and for every 10 minutes, it’s 25 cents, which equals $1.50 an hour. Next, the machine will ask you for payment. You can pay with quarters, a credit card or the Park Mobile App.
Lastly, make sure you press ‘OK’ until you see the transaction through.
Friday, several people in Downtown Sarasota walked away with the sale still pending.
“What do you think of paid parking downtown?" ABC7 asked a downtown patron named Michael Tran. "It’s great!” he exclaimed.
Tran said he comes downtown once a week, but doesn’t mind the relatively new paid parking program.
“I normally use the app, which is really easy, because you can store your [license] plates in there, you can store your credit cards in there,” Tran said.
From the people ABC7 spoke with Friday, that was the unpopular opinion.
“I preferred it when it wasn’t [paid parking,] but that’s okay,” said one patron.
“You get the position the city is taking with trying to bring more revenue in, but unfortunately from what we’ve seen so far, it’s caused a lot of confusion," explained Scooter Maloney, who works and plays downtown. "I have witnessed multiple people that go up, spend 10 to 15 minutes at the meter trying to figure it out and then they just leave.”
“I’m not sure if it’s supposed to print a ticket?" said another patron, Ben Riney as he tried to figure the meter out. "No dude, now I feel stupid.”
ABC7 heard complaints from people who work downtown too.
“There’s no actual parking for the workers, so if you park in the wrong area, you’re gonna get a ticket," said Juno Garcia, who’s a construction worker in downtown.
But the city said 88 percent of the spaces downtown are still free and the idea for paid parking is to actually benefit the merchants.
“Nobody wants to pay for parking and I think we understand that," said Mark Lyons, parking division manager for the City of Sarasota. "But there’s a cause and a purpose and there’s a return that’s coming back to the community. So it’s meaningful, it’s providing something, it’s increasing turnover out in the streets in the prime areas.”
Staff said the parking revenue is going into a fund that will offset a $600,000 subsidy the city gets. This frees up that money to be used in the general fund for things like parks, police and another portion to be put right back into Downtown Sarasota.
“We will return at least 5% of that money back into the district to be utilized for street lights, signage, sidewalk repair," explained Lyons. "Whatever the area feels is important.”
A little pro tip: if you use the meters instead of the app, you get the first 10 minutes free. If you are gonna shop and eat downtown, but don’t want to pay for parking, there are still three parking garages that are free for your first two hours.