Ask the Candidate, Parking

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In order to help Island Sand Paper readers learn more about Town Council candidates, we have asked them to answer a series of questions in their own words. We present their answers in random order this week. This is our final question:

What are your thoughts on the Town’s current parking regulations?  Please share any ideas you have to improve residential and/or business parking.

David Drumm’s response:

Our history of difficult parking, especially during season, is older than most drivers. We must try our best to improve things and not make matters worse.

We can start with a directive from the council to examine present regulations with an aim of fairly modernizing code. Many business clearly do not have enough spaces to suit their needs and others have an excess number of spaces from time to time. Some business have shared spaces thru the years and this has been of great benefit to all.

I believe a parking code that takes seasonal traffic into account by utilizing every available space during this period is a beginning. I believe that if we can regulate a more uniform parking fee we might encourage less traffic snarls due to price shopping. Let’s examine the possibility of signage on the inland side of the bridge alerting visitors of their parking options. We, in conjunction with the county, can work on an awareness program for our off island parking and trolly alternatives. Island employees should be incentivized by their employers to park off island.

Our citizens should be enthusiastically drawn into this discussion so that the town has the best advice available.

Bruce Butcher’s response:

The parking conundrum. Will more parking mean more cars coming to the beach? Are people driving around looking for parking spots adding to congestion? Probably.

With 25,000 cars daily coming to FMB is it possible to ever have enough parking? My guess is probably not. Yes some parking regulations need to be changed. Things like landscape buffering need to be changed, but today, variances are granted for that.

Unless large parking garages are added any change to regulations will have a small impact on parking capacity, in my opinion.

However if we can utilize technology to advise drivers where parking is available it might reduce congestion by getting cars off the street quicker. Additionally it might discourage people sitting in long lines from coming to the beach.

The best solution would be to have people coming to the beach by mass transit. If FDOT would allow one express trolley lane to the beach from the Summerlin San Carlos area more people would ride a trolley to the beach. However we would need more parking in that area. Or people could take buses or Uber to the trolley  beach depot. Another thought is passenger ferries to the beach. Today St Pete has $5 ferries that go to Tampa in season. Why not do this from Cape Coral, Ft Myers, and Estero.

FDOT says there is not enough demand for trolleys to the beach to warrant an express lane. I prefer to think build it and they will come, to the beach by trolley.

Jim Atterholt’s response:

Parking has long been a serious problem and any candidate who promises to solve it completely should be considered suspect. We can, however, help to mitigate this challenge. Searching for an open parking place often adds to our traffic troubles. New technology should be employed to help folks find open parking places and inform them as to which spots are filled. We should also encourage options that allow visitors to come on our Island and leave the car behind.

For the North end of the island the Town should better promote the County’s LeeTran Trolley Route #400. This currently allows visitors to park off island at the Beach Park and Ride at Pine Ridge Road and then take the trolley into various locations on Fort Myers Beach. I have also heard some interesting discussion about the Town and County working together to purchase some distressed property just before you come over the bridge and building a parking garage. It would be close enough that folks could park their car and simply walk over the bridge or hop on the trolley.

On the South end of the island, during season, we might want to model what is currently being done during the Sand Sculpting Competition in November where people can park across the road from Lover’s Key Park.  Instead of using chartered buses like the Sand Sculpting Competition does, we could just have folks hop on the existing trolley. The LeeTran Trolley Route #400 already has a stop at Lover’s Key Park. We could simply ask the County to add an additional trolley stop across the road so visitors could park their car for free off island and take the trolley anywhere on Fort Myers Beach.

William “Bill” Veach’s response:

I have seen visitors driving slowly and erratically looking for parking, and I have talked to parking lot owners who say there is no shortage. The Town App that includes a parking spot finder would make finding a spot more efficient. A prototype smartphone App was developed by CRAB volunteer Becki Webber, and is a great place to start. The Town already has provisions to allow businesses to rent out excess parking spots and make the most of the land we already have dedicated to cars. I do not support turning businesses into parking lots for day visitors by removing buildings, and incrementally turning our beautiful island into a parking lot.

I feel the conversation should change to facilitate the movement of people and not cars. People in cars do not contribute to the local economy, people on foot do. Catering to cars with parking lots consumes an enormous amount of space on our already cramped island. We should work with the county to try to get a dedicated trolley/registered multi-passenger van lane coming onto the island. Seeing a trolley go by while sitting on a crawling car is a strong motivator to ride the trolley. Registered vans can ferry resort workers and their guests and displace dozens of cars. Other options, like ferry service, can be pursued but seem to be expensive. Both trolley and ferry service reduce traffic and parking requirements.

Dan Allers’ response:

When people are searching for parking spots it backs everything else up. Limiting the parking to just two hours promotes more moving traffic than necessary. Having a park once mentality would help alleviate some of the parking concerns. Because space is limited, we need to provide visitors with as much advanced information as possible. Once you arrive on the island it can be very difficult for visitors to understand that, depending on where you park, will depend on how much you will pay and for how long you are allowed to stay there. After finding your spot, it can be confusing on where to go to pay for it. There really is no consistency to it, leaving visitors angry and confused.

Implementing and marketing a web based app with the information on where to park, how much it will cost, length of stay available and wait times would help drivers make informed decisions on their plans before coming to the island. Working with the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce to heavily promote us a bicycle friendly island. Providing ample spots around the Times Square for people to secure their bicycles.

Forrest “Butch” Critser’s response:

The current on street parking regulations seem to be unfair to our “tourist guests”. Anything unfair or unpleasant to the tourist is by association unfair to our businesses who depend on the guest traffic.

We invite them to come to our city and spend their vacation time and money at our local vendors and restaurants.

The Town seems to be trying to turn over the parkers by limiting the time at a meter thus making room for a new parker with new money.

I feel that two (2) dollars per hour for meter parking is fair to the visitors and businesses. I also feel that parking should be free in the evenings after 6:00 PM to encourage the visitors down town to patronize the restaurants. Two dollars per hour for every hour would eliminate the need for visitors to rush back to their car or move their car to another meter.

I also believe that meter readers should be completely fair in their enforcement of the rules and show no bias to out of state or local vehicles.

We should encourage visitors and locals alike to commute and visit downtown be providing more bicycle parking.

No response was received from Robert “Bob” Burandt by deadline. The Island Sand Paper’s Campaign Policy provides all candidates a variety of opportunities to share their views with our readers, including Ask the Candidate space. Candidates are solely responsible for the content of their submissions.