Ybor City parking changes will slash free spaces by 26 percent, causing concern from some

The city says the change, which goes into effect on March 14, will relieve traffic congestion.

click to enlarge A pay-by-plate sign is installed. - City of Tampa/Twitter
City of Tampa/Twitter
A pay-by-plate sign is installed.

Yesterday, the City of Tampa announced that the free two hour street parking will be removed in Ybor, and that city parking lots can be used instead of the street spots.

Starting March 14, Ybor City parking lots 3, 5 and 6 will instead offer two hours of free parking (it'll be $1 an hour after the first two hours). Street parking, meanwhile, will change to $1.50 an hour. The city will also be creating an additional 100 new street parking spaces in Ybor, all of which will require payment.

Today, the city confirmed to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that the changes mean a drop in the overall number of free parking spaces in the historic district. According to numbers from the city's parking division, 279 free two hour street parking spaces are currently available now; after the changes, lots 3, 5 and 6 will hold just 205 free parking spaces—a 26% difference.

In a press release sent out yesterday, the city said that the change will make it easier to find a parking space, reduce traffic congestion and create additional parking spaces in the business corridor of Ybor City.

“This is going to be instrumental in stopping the constant traffic congestion Ybor City drivers are facing as drivers scan the streets for free parking,” wrote Fed Revolte, Parking Manager for the City of Tampa. “We know this will make it easier to find a parking spot and also provide additional free parking in our city-owned parking lots.”

Revolte estimated the project could reduce traffic congestion in the Ybor Business District by as much as 30%.

But the new parking plan has raised concerns from workers and businesspeople in the area.

Emilie Schiller works as a bartender in Ybor. She and her co-workers often move their cars to different free street parking spots to save money. If they go the traditional route of paying for parking, it cuts into their paycheck.

Schiller says that when she and fellow co-workers pull a 13-hour shift, the price of parking can add up. "We're talking over $100 a week or more," Schiller told CL.

On top of personal costs, she thinks the removal of free street parking will only deter people who want to come to Ybor for lunch and other quick visits, potentially affecting business in the area.

 Schiller considers herself lucky because she can walk to work from her house, but it's often safer for her to drive. She feels that she might have to start choosing between her safety and paying for parking more often.

"At three or four o'clock in the morning whenever all the clubs are getting out, it's been  an unsafe situation several times, and I'd rather just drive home," she said.

In response to  concerns of employees affording parking in Ybor, City of Tampa Marketing and Communications Media Relations Manager Lauren Rozyla told CL that there's parking available for employees in Ybor's parking garages for $31.19 a month. But  business owners have to reach out to the city's parking division to get their employees involved.

According to the city's numbers, there are just 33 spaces left at the discounted rate during the 4:30 p.m.-5:30 a.m. hours.

The city said that it has been presenting to Ybor business owners in the district with community listening sessions and made two presentations to the Ybor City Community Advisory Committee.

“We know these changes will help increase parking turnover in the business district of Ybor City,” said Vik Bhide, Mobility Director for the City of Tampa. “This will especially help with the lack of freight and loading and unloading spots for businesses.”

Tom DeGeorge, owner of Crowbar and spokesperson for the Ybor Merchant's Association, doesn't agree that the changes are being made to help the business owners there.

"There were a lot of people who were saying, 'Please do not put these meters in here'," DeGeorge said. "But they're doing it anyway."

DeGeorge said that he doesn't think the city is taking into consideration how the change is going to affect himself and other business owners in Ybor. He pointed out that the reduction in free parking comes off the heels of the city's controversial noise ordinance, and that it creates an unfair advantage to other areas, where many businesses have their own parking lots.

"Ybor wasn't designed like other parts of the city, we're an entertainment district," he said. "And now, they're taking a way a significant amount of our free parking, which will only push more people away."


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Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia has written for The Nation, Investigative Reporters & Editors Journal, the USA Today Network and various other news outlets. When he's not writing, Justin likes to make music, read, play basketball and spend time with loved ones. 

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