By Mike Lednovich
The chairman of the Community Redevelopment Area Advisory Board (CRAAB) wants the group to find solutions for downtown Fernandina Beach’s shortage of parking spaces. CRAAB will begin addressing the issue at its June meeting.
“There’s going to be development on all the private properties (in the CRA), we know that. With that, you’ll have additional people coming in bringing their cars who are going to need parking. At some point, you run out of the ability to accommodate all those cars and let’s face it a lot of people come here and don’t have the capacity to walk a mile, half-mile to get to where they want to be,” CRAAB Chairman Alan Hopkins told committee members. “When you have scarcity it’s the costs. Who is paying for it? Right now it’s the citizens of Fernandina Beach. This problem will not go away if we just ignore it. We’ll have to find a solution to it at some point.”
Hopkins said he wanted committee members to think about ideas and solutions for the June meeting.
“This is not just a CRA problem. It’s everything downtown,” Hopkins said. “There’s 25,000 homes being built in Wildlight. They’re coming to Fernandina Beach and they’re not walking.”
Committee member Eric Bartelt asked if the goal of paid parking was to reduce the influx of downtown visitors or to raise revenue for the city.
“If you price it a certain way you will eliminate people from coming down here. That’s not my objective,” Hopkins said. “But it is my objective for the people who benefit from the use of something public to pay for it.”
Hopkins advocates a paid visitor parking program because Fernandina Beach residents “are already paying for it.”
Member Lisa Finkelstein, who heads the Fernandina Main Street program, said she has seen other Main Street communities effectively solve their downtown parking issues.
“From parking studies and parking plans implemented from other Main Street communities, there are ways to go about it that are not a burden to the residents. That incentivizes the employees and the businesses to encourage their employees to park elsewhere. Believe me, we’ve asked (employees and business owners) to park elsewhere. There are ways to implement a parking plan that would help to alleviate some of the congestion in the prime parking spots. So we may have to look at a parking plan that may or may not incorporate paid parking, but is most likely because we’ve got to have either a carrot or a stick. You’ve got to have something that incentivizes or punishes them so you can control the spots that you have.”
But one member, Frank Santry, said he believes the parking issue is a daunting challenge.
“I have a deep-seated suspicion that this is an unsolvable problem,” Santry said. “There are problems that are best left to human nature and this is one of them.”
Santry cautioned that past paid parking programs designed to raise revenues for cities frequently fail because of the costs incurred in running the programs.
Hopkins said he would share his plan at the June meeting.
“The solution I will present will in no way cost the city money,” Hopkins said. “The goal is to make sure we have the sufficient ability for people to enjoy downtown and enhance the business district not only for the people who come here but for ourselves.”
Member Frank Demato asked if parking outside of the CRA was a topic that CRAAB should be addressing.
“If we don’t do it, who is going to do it?” Hopkins said.
Paid parking for those who do not live on the island is best answer. Or, charge cars that come over bridge. That is done in many a seaside town.
So if you live on the south part of the island, you believe you get to park free downtown, which you do not own. But the person who lives a couple of miles over the bridge, and works on the island should have no rights to park on the island for the same price or for free, if I understand your reasoning. Perhaps every person who hires a plumber, lawn worker, grocery store clerk. etc should pay a tax to support such “outsiders” coming to the island to serve you. Actually those in the south island are not in Fernandina Beach, so they should not get free parking. Aren’t you “special”
Yes, to paid parking in the historic downtown. No to charging for cars that come over the bridge unless quality public transit is offered as a viable alternative. That would be an attack on the people who work on the island, including those who work in the resorts, and cannot afford to live on the island.
This comment makes the mist sense. I often wonder if a few of the large empty shopping centers on and off 8th street could be turned into small parking garages with a shuttle to take you to downtown. Of course there would have to be a small charge and perhaps funding from other sources to keep the shuttles operating. Like most problems, a combination of solutions may be the best.
Paid parking downtown seems like the way to go, as long as it is priced right and enforced. Downtown residents should also receive discounted parking rates. However, it is only one part of the solution. Ultimately, you will want to reduce the number of cars coming downtown by providing viable alternatives.
The best way to have more car parking available is by having fewer cars.
My thoughts as well as stated in my comment.
As a resident/tax payer on F.Beach, it’s been increasingly difficult to park downtown. (Frustrated to say the least!) I want to enjoy MY downtown! Our “locals are vying for a spot in their very own community. I would propose a no parking ban through out downtown. Suggest electric shuttle bus links paid for by Nassau county and corporations not incorporated with F.Beach. Go green! Look at Mackinac Island! No cars! You either choose to walk, bike, carriage ride, etc!
When we traveled to Europe the joke was “Oh….another darn cathedral.”. In Fernandina it is ” Oh…Another darn advisory board”!
Why aren’t we talking about public transportation (on island and off island) so that parking is less of an issue? If there was a shuttle or bus to get around the island and to get to the beaches, we would have fewer cars that need to park.
City tax payers already pay to park.
Would think that for the number of state roads involved, for any solution to be effective long term, a discussion should involve the NFTPO and Nassau County Transit. You can’t get to the historic district without traversing roads that involve these agencies.
We already have rail tracks going from Wildlight all the way down to downtown Fernandina. Why not some kind of Trolley starting at Wildlight? With a stop near Home Depot in Yulee, which is right next to the tracks. Would not need to pay for any land acquisition, just stations and upgrades.
Unfortunately, that track is privately owned and operated by First Coast Railroad. Freight railroad companies typically have no interest in sharing their infrastructure with passenger rail. However, you are right that this track would provide the much-needed alternative to the 100% personal vehicle strategy. If the state and county could make a deal with FCR and CSX to gain the right to use these tracks or build their own parallel tracks, it could provide great value to the residents. Similar arrangements have been made before, including in Florida where Brightline operates passenger trains on tracks shared with freight, and in Austin, TX, where small light rail trains operate on freight tracks. It is possible, but it requires vision, political will, and leadership to accomplish it.
Realistically, there isn’t a public transportation system in the U.S. that doesn’t require substantial subsidies from a governmental agency to operate, so unless an outside agency is going to fund a trolley or bus system it will end up for the city’s taxpayers to pay for the program. What happened to the privately operated (and partially city subsidized) island trolley transportation system should be a clue as to the viability of such a program. The reality is that if people aren’t willing to walk a couple of blocks from parking not on Centre Street, do you think they are going to go to a remote lot and wait for a bus making several stops and then make the reverse journey? I think not.
Dave, so far you’re the only person that makes any sense. Fernandina has a huge problem, and have had it for years. The can just keeps getting kicked down the road. I see no way to solve this problem without spending tons of money and changing the landscape forever. For one thing, the shrimp festival has reached its usefulness in this town. Fernandina is too small to accommodate such a massive endeavor anymore. Folks need to be prepared to be taxed to death if they want to park instead of walk.
St Augustine has meters that take credit/debit cards, been doing it for years.
Paid parking on Center St makes sense. However, the primary goal should not be solely to generate revenue but rather to curb traffic and ensure that a few parking spots are always available at any time. This means that the pricing should be set appropriately: not too high, as it could hurt businesses, and not too low, as it wouldn’t serve its purpose. Additionally, effective enforcement is necessary. Currently, the 3-hour parking limit is not enforced. Implementing paid parking would cover the costs of enforcement. Furthermore, the payment process should be convenient, allowing for cash, card, and mobile payments. Discounts should also be provided to street residents. Adding more parking downtown would require either demolishing an entire city block or incurring more debt for the city, which is not advisable. Instead, let’s focus on reducing the number of cars downtown and providing viable transportation alternatives.
Remember: more parking = more traffic. Do you really want more traffic?