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VERO BEACH - On Sept. 24, consultants Kimley-Horn and Associates presented their analysis of Vero Beach beachside parking. One meeting was held at the Holiday Inn and Suites Vero Beach Oceanside for the general public, another for business stakeholders.

The study looked at parking supply and demand. Kimley-Horn analyzed all public and private on and off street parking; surveyed more than 3,000 spaces, including more than 750 public spaces; analyzed peak parking occupancy and surplus/deficit; noted parking inventory by facility and space type; and conducted parking occupancy counts over a five-day period during peak season in March.

The consultants surveyed parking inventory in the beachside area and found a total of 3,108 spaces, 76% of which are privately owned.

During the period studied, parking peaks occurred around 2 p.m. each weekday, when on street parking was 89% occupied, off street public parking was 100% occupied, and off street private parking was 61% occupied, for a total occupancy of 69%.

The survey found that the beachside area has a surplus of 655 private parking spaces and a deficit of 31 public parking spaces during peak period.

Based on historical population growth in Indian River County from 2000 to 2015 of 1.67% annual growth, the survey predicted five years population growth of 8.35%, and 16.7% in ten years.

That growth would lead to a public parking deficit of 101 spaces in five years and 158 spaces in ten years, while maintaining a private parking surplus of about 498 spaces in five years and 158 spaces in ten years.

The consultant’s principle conclusions are that peak times are during a weekday afternoon; public parking is well utilized with minimal capacity during peak period; and there is potential available capacity in private parking facilities but a projected deficit of public parking.

Existing parking policies were found to have some negative impacts. They noted that free public parking with no time limit in the three public lots, no on-street parking along residential streets, and private parking restricted to the associated businesses had negative impacts.

Among those problems are the opportunity to abuse public parking by employees; no incentive for short term visitors to use off street private parking; and minimal long term (over four hours) public parking options available.

Potential solutions presented were paid parking; shared parking; supply additions; off-site employee parking; and improvements in parking management.

The beachside area has 756 existing paid parking spots. The benefits of paid parking, the consultants say, are that they balance parking demand; incentivize people to use private parking areas; provide funds to effectively manage parking system; prevent long-term parkers from using on street parking; increase turnover of spaces; add convenience through multiple payment options; and incentivize alternative modes of transportation.

That final benefit met the approval of Hugh Aaron, president of Bike Walk Indian River County, a community coalition that promotes bicycle and pedestrian bicycle safety initiatives.

“One option to help with the oceanside parking problem would be to install one or more bike share stations in remote central beach locations such as Riverside Park, and one or more bike share stations along Ocean Dr.,” Mr. Aaron told Hometown News.

“Employees (and visitors) could drive to Riverside Park, keeping a bike helmet in their car, pick up a bike, ride to Ocean Dr. and drop off the bike. When ready to leave the Ocean Dr. area, they would simply reverse the steps. This is not a unique idea, cities all over the world are implementing these programs including other small towns in Florida like Lakeland. This would not completely solve our parking problems, but could be a cost-effective, healthy and fun part of the solution.”

Consultant Kimley-Horn suggested other improvements, such as consistently-themed parking signage for public lots, monthly parking options for employees, and the possibility of valet parking along Ocean Dr. and Cardinal Dr., which it said would increase capacity while enhancing the Vero Beach brand.

While construction of new parking garages was discussed, the consultants noted several big challenges. They said parking garages on available Vero Beach sites are not the best uses of those sites. They said garages would be expensive to construct and maintain, and they would displace parking during construction. If the city did choose to move forward with new parking garages, the consultants estimated that 150 spaces could be gained by Ocean Grill at a construction cost of $4.8 million, and 100 spaces could be gained by Humiston Plaza at a construction cost of $3 million.

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