Meter Madness

A Brief History of Downtown Sarasota Parking Meters

Sarasota's had an on-again, off-again love affair with downtown parking meters.

By Susan Wallach October 26, 2016 Published in the November 2016 issue of Sarasota Magazine

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Image: Shutterstock 

April 1941 The City of Sarasota announces plans to install parking meters by fall. Twelve minutes will cost one cent; an hour five cents. Because of manufacturing delays attributed to national defense priorities, they’re not installed until January 1942.

May 1942 After complaints from the Sarasota Retail Merchants Association (104 of 115 members oppose the meters), the city promises to remove the meters by July, saying that wartime gas and rubber shortages make them unnecessary, anyway.

December 1946 Citing increased downtown traffic congestion, the City installs new parking meters along sections of Main Street, Pineapple Avenue, Central Avenue, Lemon Avenue, Palm Avenue, First Street (then called Seventh) and State Street (then called Sixth Street).

June 1964–1965 Efforts to remove downtown meters begin, but after officials realize the city would lose $300,000-$400,000 in meter revenues that were pledged as part of a 1956 bond issue, the removal—“where requested by merchants”—is put on hold until sometimes between fall of 1965 and early 1967. 

April 16, 1967 Newspaper headline notes, “Merchants Praise City Removal of Parking Meters.” Some meters are retained in remote locations where they will remain through the late 1970s.

February 2005-June 2007 Various headlines proclaim “Sarasota Considers Metered Parking,” “Sarasota Revisits Parking Meters,” “Sarasota Backs Off Plan for Downtown Parking Meters,” “New Downtown Parking Permit Plan Considered,” and “Sarasota Revisits Downtown Meters,” culminating with a June 7 Herald-Tribune editorial, “Parking Meters Worth a Try.”  Enthusiasm fades as the recession hits.

May 2011 Some 400 meters are installed downtown in an area bounded by Gulfstream Avenue, Orange Avenue, First Street and McAnsh Square. Rates: $1 per hour, except along Gulfstream, which is 50 cents per hour.  In July, some are moved to other locations, including around the Sarasota County Judicial Center.

March 2012 After a year-long battle with merchants and residents protesting the meters, the city votes 3-2 to remove them and sells them back to the vendor, recouping just $23,500 of the initial $414,000 cost.

May 2016 A new report concludes that paid parking is the only way for Sarasota’s parking department to sustain itself, and the commission votes to follow that recommendation. 

September 2016 The commission approves installing new meters. Rates will be 10 cents for six minutes, 25 cents for 15 minutes; $2 for the first two hours and $1 for each additional hour. Meters will be installed at 468 parking spaces on Main Street, Palm Avenue and part of Ringling Boulevard within the next year. Downtown merchants protest the decision and raise the issue of legal action.

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