Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Parking Rules In Old Town

It must to obvious to anyone who has paid attention over the decades that parking in Key West is, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an issue that will probably not be solved in this coming century. Unless a shortage of cheap oil knocks all internal combustion off the roads Old Town Key West will be plagued with parking problems no matter what scheme the city comes up with. Even before the railroad was converted into a direct road link to the mainland in 1938, cars have been a symbol of individual mobility in Key West, even if the road went no further than No Name Key, and was not an easy drive to boot. Duval Street in the 1930s, courtesy the State Archives:

Next month all parking rules are going to change, and while one hopes that the issues that have been raised most recently, residents having to walk blocks from car to home, will be solved; I doubt it. Currently I believe about one third the spaces in Old Town (more or less west of White Street, north of Truman Avenue) are designated as Residential Parking. This scheme was inaugurated after the city tried to implement a neighborhood permit parking scheme which failed. The signs for "permit parking Only" are still on some streets bizarrely enough but they mean nothing.

The newspaper recently ran a story about Florida car license plates, known as tags in the Sunshine State, which will soon change their format. Apparently Big Brother's enforcement cameras take poor pictures of tags with raised letters so all states are changing format to dark, flat lettering on a light background to make them easier to read. This means the county designation on tags will soon disappear, which is a sentimental shame with practical consequences.

The city will sell ten dollar permits to residents of the city only, who can produce a driver's license, car registration and utility bill. lacking any one of these three items means no permit for you! Well, that's the theory right now but strict implementation of new parking rules in the Southernmost City usually leads to unintended  consequences such that strict implementation usually falls by the wayside. We shall see; all that is the theory so far...

The old blue  parking permits sold I believe for $85 will no longer be valid.

Nor will tags with the word "Monroe" embossed on them be a valid  way to use Residential parking spots anymore. Florida tags have to be replaced automatically every five years if they aren't specialty, fund raising tags, so these types of tags will soon disappear anyway. In the meantime, as of next month the only legal way to use residential parking spots will be with the new green sticker.
Parking meters are in use between Elizabeth and Whitehead Streets and on-street parking costs $1.50 an hour paid at these machines using a credit card: 
One has to wonder how this new program will work precisely. Given the stringent requirements to prove residence there are quite a few people, like me, who are used to using residential parking spots who will now be excluded. In my case I am not affected as there is ample parking at my job and I work at night anyway. My visits to Old Town for recreation usually involve a powered two wheeler which gets free parking anyway...and I have a few spots I know where the new rules won't affect my ability to see a movie or eat out. However the ramifications of this new scheme are of far greater concern I think that just my convenience. Other county residents who work in Old Town will have a much harder time.  

For instance will a  vehicle with a handicapped sticker be able to park in residential parking without a green sticker? I guess we will have to wait for a test case. They can park free in metered spots so for tourists that should change nothing, unless they rent a place in Old Town with limited parking....
Given that not everyone wants to ride a bicycle or a scooter, seen below enjoying free parking on Fleming Street kitty corner from the library...a lot of car drivers are going to have figure out their strategy for parking and working and staying close to home.
The city is buy repainting the residential spots so there will hopefully be no confusion this winter, but I wonder what snowbirds will think when they discover their blue annual permits are no longer valid? and lacking even one of the three validating documents they will not get access to the much desired residential spots near their million dollar winter homes? Hmm...I foresee stormy weather ahead.

I think a large part of the problem, beyond the simple shortage of physical space, is that the city is trying to cope with numerous competing needs.  First off many of the off street parking spaces, including driveways and garages have been paved over or turned into living spaces, in a knock on effect caused by small expensive housing and the natural desire to make the most of what you've got. If residents reclaimed their garages half the problem would evaporate.

The consider the needs of permanent year round residents for whom these rules seem to have been enacted...These are the people who live in the city and can't park close to home. Are their needs going to remain paramount in the face of county residents coming to the city and not finding free parking? The snowbirds giving city commissioners earache about their parking woes? Tourists grumbling about expensive tickets?   Parking is a nightmare in winter. Managing it is a heroic task. Then there is the requirement that people parking their vehicles use common sense. In other words just because someone ha sparked in front of a No Parking sign doesn't mean you should too. Locals know what's what, indeed this vehicle might very well be the owner of the "No Parking" sign!
Check for special signs and READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!  
Motorcycle parking is not car parking even if its empty. Conversely bicycle parking isn't scooter parking...even if you think it should be. Don't park on sidewalks and don't whine when you get a ticket. Please don't call 9-1-1 because Parking Enforcement is part of city hall's duties not the police department. We dispatch parking control officers if you see a violator but we don't mediate parking disputes after a ticket is issued, not that anyone cares. People get incandescent with rage when they get a ticket. It's amazing.
Yellow means no parking, red means no parking and get a huge fine or get towed if you do, while white means go ahead and park if you can find space. Big trucks and SUVs make no sense in Key West but entitlement expresses itself in the most mysterious ways.
And on the subject of reading the signs, if it says TOW AWAY you will get towed to a location outside Key West, a long cab ride away in fact and you will get a bill of more than a hundred bucks, sometimes a lot more, to get your car back. The tow trucks patrol their businesses all night and if they see an unauthorized car parked in a business lot they will take it. They check with the police department to make sure it's not stolen and so I know they call in tows at all hours of the night. Pay attention!
In point of fact if you use common sense free spaces and city parking lots, and don't mind walking a few blocks now and then parking in Key West is quite bearable. However if you expect ease of use because you have spent a lot of money to either visit or live here you will be disappointed. Just like love, money can't necessarily buy you parking and if you rent or buy a home without off street parking be aware that you will be walking from time to time. But in these Fall months parking is a delight, like this on James Street next to the city public parking garage, known as the Park and Ride as it is on the bus line:

Or, if you can't stand the idea of traveling light load up your lithe motorcycle with a trailer and a bicycle and pretend you are  an SUV and take up a whole space for yourself. This time of year that's feasible even on Fleming Street!


From the city's official website where you can apparently pay parking fines online:

Violations must be paid within 10 calendar days or an additional late charge of $5.00 will be assessed. After 20 days, an additional late charge of $5.00 will be assessed - total late fee of $10.00 per ticket. Parking violations will be considered delinquent after 30 days and sent to a collection agency.
OTH Vehicle parked on public right-of-way facing oncoming traffic $35.00

SID Vehicle parked on sidewalk on a public right-of-way $35.00

FIR Vehicle illegally parked near a fire hydrant (within 15 feet) $175.00

DES Failure to park vehicle within authorized parking space $35.00

NPZ Parked in a designated no parking zone $35.00
RV RV/Oversize vehicle parked illegally on a public right-of-way $75.00

HAN Unauthorized use of handicapped parking space $250.00
OTH Other parking violations to wit: $35.00

FLN Parked in designated fire lane $175.00