August 1, 2008

Parking Relief for Miami Beach Residents

By Tania Valdemoro, The Miami Herald

Aug. 1--It's not always just about the tourists: Miami Beach residents will catch a break when they feed parking meters starting later this year.

But everyone will have to pay a flat $15 to park in three popular South Beach garages late on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

At the Neighborhoods and Community Affairs committee meeting Wednesday, commissioners ratified new rates for five city garages. The rates vary by location. Commissioners had already agreed to hike South Beach meters -- on the street and in surface lots -- to $1.25 from $1 an hour starting in October, though residents will be eligible for a discount.

The actions came in response to a torrent of complaints from residents and business owners who faced higher garage rates in October, when Miami Beach started charging a $15 flat fee for parking in city garages for more than four hours.

"Residents are suffering right now, and we need to cut them some slack with parking," Commissioner Jerry Libbin said.

The full commission will vote on the changes at its Sept. 10 meeting.

Under the new scheme, garage parking rates will vary by location -- a change from the current $1-per-hour rate for the first four hours and the flat rate of $15:

At the 42nd Street garage in Mid-Beach, the charge will be $1 per hour, up to $8 per day.

At the Seventh, 12th and 13th street garages in South Beach, the rate will also be $1 per hour except from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. During those times, the city will charge a $15 flat rate.

"We're saying, if you want to use those garages at those peak times, $15 is how much parking is going to cost," Libbin said.

At the heavily used 17th Street garage across the street from Miami Beach City Hall, the rate will be $1 per hour for the first four hours, and $2 an hour for the next four hours. From nine to 15 hours, the cost will be $15. And if someone parks for more than 15 hours during a 24-hour period, the charge will be $20 per day.

"The longer someone parks there, the more it will cost," Commissioner Deede Weithorn said. "We don't want to turn that garage into a warehouse for vehicles."

When it comes to metered parking, commissioners approved a plan that would charge residents $1 instead of $1.25 per hour in South Beach, as long as they buy a new in-car meter, Miami Beach's equivalent of a SunPass.

The in-car meters, about the size of a pocket calculator, will be sold to residents and nonresidents, but only Beach residents will receive the South Beach discount. The price hasn't yet been set.

The new device will replace the city's SmartCard. It would be preloaded with $25 and programmed with meter rates for different parking zones. After the driver enters a parking zone, the device -- which will be displayed on the vehicle dashboard -- will deduct the applicable parking charge and display any remaining balance.

Parking Director Saul Frances said 100 to 200 of the new in-car meters will be available to residents starting next month for a trial. The program would be rolled out to everyone between October and November.

To receive the in-car meter, residents would have to show the Parking Department proof of residency and their car registration for each vehicle, he said.

"We should give residents the first shot at these in-car meters," Weithorn said. "We want to make parking more convenient and affordable for them as soon as we can."


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