Downtown Sarasota adds parking meters to busiest locations

Driving down Main Street in Sarasota can have its frustrating moments. 

"You have to go all the way down. People sit and drink their coffee and read their paper," said Deberah Smith. 

Deberah and Robert Smith know all of those customers taking their time and valuable parking spots. 

"It can be hard at times. It depends on the hours. What can I say, that's downtown parking," said Robert Smith. 

The city believes that new parking meters are a key to solving the problems. 

"If people don't find parking, they don't want to come, they don't want to stop," said Sarasota parking manager Mark Lyons. He says the meters will go online this week. 

Each meter gives customers 10 minutes free if they enter their license plate number. After that, its $1.50 an hour and there is no time limit in place.

Lyons said the meters already work on St. Armand's Circle. 

"They allow you to find a parking spot and use it for the time that is necessary for you do business," he continued. 

About 90% of parking in Downtown Sarasota will remain free. You will find meters at the busiest locations like Main Street and the Judicial District. 

"Parking meters create that natural turn over," added Lyons. 

In 2011, the city tried meters, but the technology was not user-friendly and they were taken out. Now users can pay with card, change or the Park Mobile App. 

"We wanted to keep the plan simple and sustainable," said Lyons. 

To support downtown merchants and as a courtesy to visitors, a ‘One Time Ticket Waiver' will be offered. A parking ticket for expired time will be waived when a receipt of $25 or greater from a downtown business is presented to the Parking Operations Division within 14 days. To be eligible, the ticket must be the first for the person and vehicle in the city of Sarasota. The receipt must be issued the same day as the ticket. 

Downtown customers like the Smiths are willing to try it. 

"I'm sure it'll open up a lot of places and parking sports," said Robert Smith. 

Meters are located at: 

Judicial Parking District:
Location:  Ringling Boulevard from Washington Boulevard to School Avenue; Main Street between Washington Boulevard and School Avenue
Rate:  $1.50 per hour
Hours of enforcement:  Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Downtown Parking District:
Location:  Main Street from Washington Boulevard to Gulf Stream Avenue; Palm Avenue from Ringling Boulevard to Cocoanut Avenue. 
Rate:  $1.50 per hour
Hours of enforcement:  Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.