By Amy Davis, Finance Director, City of Treasure Island
The City of Treasure Island is a barrier island within Pinellas County on the west coast of Florida. The current population is 6,800 that nearly doubles during the tourist season. Treasure Island was mostly developed in the 1950’s and has been a popular tourist destination, but also has many well-established neighborhoods. The City has many small to medium hotels along the beach with most of the residential neighborhoods on separate islands or fingers on the Intracoastal.
Many of the hotels do not have adequate parking and have had to deal with the parking shortage in ways ranging from purchasing additional land for parking lots to not providing parking options for guests. Additionally, the City has many beach access points for the public and/or residents and day visitors from the Tampa Bay Region, but not all of them have room for parking. The City’s designated parking areas are mostly metered; however, over the years, visitors and residents alike have carved out informal parking areas throughout the City. This occurred over time due to not having enough designated parking areas and not having enough parking overall.
As the City considered ways to increase revenues, while supporting the business community, tourism and a high quality of life for its residents, the City’s Parking System became a point of focus. Some of the issues the City faced were parking revenues, while growing each year, had the capacity to grow more because the parking fee for Treasure Island was below market. Further, visitors and residents often had complaints about the current pay stations due to the lack of ease-of-use. Areas where informal parking was occurring was unattractive and in some cases could be a safety hazard due to limited access for garbage or a fire truck. Lastly, the City had limited management data because the meters did not collect any data.
After studying the parking issues, the City proposed to overhaul its parking system using the following approach.
- Replace all parking meters and pay stations with the latest technology
- Increase designated and formal parking areas throughout the City
- Increase parking rates, while remaining competitive with neighboring communities
- Enhance parking enforcement and reduce parking ticket processing/collection fees
Although the entire overhaul will take several years to complete, the City has successfully been able to conduct an RFP and enter into a contract for the replacement of all parking meters and pay stations, meter five additional designated parking areas, increase parking rates, increase a part-time parking enforcement officer to full-time, and contract with a vendor to generate parking tickets and handle the collection process for less cost than the City was currently paying. This vendor also provided technology to automate the parking ticket writing process, which were previously hand-written.
The new functionality that is provided using today’s technology for parking pay meters and pay stations will help to ensure that visitors to Treasure Island have a pleasant and positive experience. Current technology allows for convenient payment options that range from coins, cash, credit cards or a mobile app that can be downloaded in a few minutes onto a mobile device. The mobile app will notify users how much pre-paid parking time is remaining and allows for them to purchase additional time through the app. Shutdowns due to cell airway overloads, especially during the busy holiday weekends are no longer a worry because batch processing allows for credit card transactions to continue as normal. When the cell airways become available, the batch is then sent for processing, curtailing missed revenue and upset customers. Staff will also be able to issue a temporary code, issue magnetic striped cards or tokens to a business or group who may want to purchase time for parking to accommodate an event they are hosting.
Staff has identified a number of areas to propose for future metered parking areas within the City over the next several years. Some of these areas are next to residential or business areas that will require an outreach communication strategy to solve some of the many issues that may arise. With businesses that are already short of parking, communication will be necessary to balance the needs of the City and its businesses. The City will have to work towards solutions for some of the more challenging areas to designate as parking, but believe the approach is working and will continue to monitor the outcomes going forward.