Letter: Traffic and parking problems plague downtown
Bruce A Maguire
St Augustine, FL
Dear Editor and Neighbors:
Given the continued activism against traffic problems on May Street and now potential traffic problems with Riberia Point, the time has come to share some thoughts and observations about the severe traffic and parking problems plaguing our downtown residents.
Most people think the problems are caused by tourists, but which type of tourist?
Type One tourists are those who visit St. Augustine for the experience, stay overnight in a hotel and visit restaurants, shops and attractions. Type Two are the day trippers who live several hours away, drive into St. Augustine or to the beaches and return home the same day. Type Three are those who come, only to spend money at the festivals on the Events Field, cause traffic problems, and then leave.
Type One are the best tourists. They support our businesses, provide our bed tax dollars and create the minimal traffic problems. Type Two support our businesses; however, they create additional traffic and parking problems, even though spread throughout the City. Type Three, also known as the “non-tourists”, saturate the Events Field and everything around it, causing major traffic and parking problems. They provide minimal support to our local businesses.
The proliferation of festivals at the Events Field has become a problem which effects our quality of life. We believe the size and magnitude of festivals have outgrown downtown St. Augustine. Our neighborhoods can no longer support the parking needs. Have you experienced the jammed highway corridors and neighborhood streets? Bumper to bumper traffic, moving at a crawl and unsafe parked cars on right-of-ways? We believe it is time to reduce or end these festivals in downtown St. Augustine.
Almost every neighborhood has stood against the development of the 7-Eleven Store at the corner of May Street and San Marco Avenue. The reason was traffic back-up on May Street and the probable increase of traffic through the neighborhood streets. Why then are we not addressing the same traffic and parking issues created by the mega-festivals at the Events Field?
We believe City staff is working to max out these festivals for two reasons: 1) to fill the parking garage for revenue generation and 2) to generate revenue by renting the Events field.
But is our suffering worth the small revenues? We, the residents, have to deal with all this traffic every weekend by people who come to these events, spend their money at these events and then head home. These “festival goers” are not our tourist business.
In fact, we believe they do not contribute to the success of the tourist industry, but actually detract from it. What they are doing is ruining our neighborhood experience, clogging our thoroughfares, and making it very inconvenient to live in the downtown area.
Here are some observations from the Bacon Festival on May 26 from 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm and at 4pm:
- Traffic coming from the north on US1 was backed up to SR 16.
- Traffic coming from the west on SR16 was backed up to Masters Drive.
- Traffic coming from the north on San Marco was backed up to the Cheese Wheel.
- Traffic coming from the south on US1 was backed up to Orange Street.
- Traffic coming from Vilano Beach was backed up blocks past Surfside Avenue.
Speaking with two people who came from Fleming Island for the Bacon Festival told me that they read about it online. They came and paid $8 to park in the parking garage, then had to wait in a huge line to pay $4 admission to get on the field. They finally decided not to continue to wait in the line and left to head back home.
Signs were located on public streets in the Model Land neighbor saying “Event Parking Prohibited”.
Normal tourists parked in the HP-1 Neighborhood all around Maria Sanchez Lake and of course every spot south of St. Francis Street on St. George Street.
Here are some observation from the Celtic Festival in March:
- Traffic coming from the north on US1 was backed up past SR16 to Depot Plaza.
- Traffic coming from the north on A1A/Vilano Beach was backed up to Surfside Avenue, and this flows over the Vilano Bridge, on May Street then to either San Marco or US1.
- I did not go north on San Marco Avenue but I do know that San Marco was backed up coming from the north to at least the National Guard Armory.
In summary, we hope this will cause each resident to start making their own observations about the festivals at the Events Field. Personally, we would like to see real discussions on reducing the number of events at the field, restricting the type of events and restricting the estimated event attendance.
Perhaps we need to consider eliminating all events at the field and turning it into public park area for residents and tourists to enjoy.
Thank you for listening. If you agree, please make your voice known.