Letter: The genie’s out of the bottle


Letter: The genie’s out of the bottle

John Valdes
St Augustine, FL

Dear Editor:

The genie is out of the bottle and looking for a parking space.

We’ve been discovered, we can’t put the cork back in the bottle — and we shouldn’t try.

When you examine our traffic and parking, it becomes obvious that our biggest problem downtown is not our visitors or students – it’s their cars. St Augustine is not coping with traffic, and if we do not find solutions, it will get worse. The faster we solve our traffic and parking, the quicker the lives of residents and visitors will improve.

It’s time to have a serious conversation about satellite parking and transport. We must keep visitors and students’ cars out of center city and the surrounding neighborhoods. We need to have a conversation with Flagler College about surface parking or a parking garage and the transport of their students.

Other small cities have addressed similar problems, so, the good news is we don’t have to reinvent the wheel — but, where the tire is flat, it needs to be changed. I’m excited to hear that there are local business people considering satellite parking and transportation as a moneymaker. Parking could also produce income for Flagler College — from students when classes are in session, from visitors whenever there is a surplus.

In my opinion, Ripley’s Sightseeing Trains and Historic Tours of America’s Old Town Trolley should be encouraged to expand further into the private parking and transport business. There is vacant land to be purchased or leased on north San Marco Avenue, as well as West King Street and Anastasia Boulevard where parking can be developed and train or trolley terminals built.

My view is that the through streets, currently defined as “entry corridors” should become “entry destinations” — anchored by parking terminals serving trolleys and sightseeing trains traversing roadways in the city.

Re-development of businesses along those present commercial entry corridors, means increased property value. Under my proposal, this translates into increased revenue from those local businesses who profit from better exposure and better managed traffic flow.

For our city’s residents and employees, I advocate development of a “Park and Ride” program; giving those who work downtown access to the St Augustine Historic Downtown Parking Facility and train or trolley transportation to their place of employment.

In contrast to the “Park Now” card program currently in place, the “Park and Ride” could be paid for by citizens based on the number of uses, rather than minutes used. That way, local residents participating in the program could visit downtown for dinner, or to shop, and not have to worry about finding a parking spot, or getting to their destination.

Our parking and traffic issues are, to a large degree, the result of our city and county government’s very successful pursuit of tourism as well as a growing Flagler College. I’m all for the pursuit of good business if it pays for itself and does not negatively impact neighborhoods.

If private sector businesses can make money in the process of solving our parking and traffic problems, by all means, let’s have them solve those problems, make money, and pay taxes.