By Bill Weedmark
Flagler students hoping to rely on street parking this semester will need to re-think their plans. The City of St. Augustine will implement a new parking program around Flagler College limiting on-street parking to city residents only.
“I would encourage students commuting from outside of the city to invest in the affordable parking garage passes at the Visitor Information Center,” city Chief Operations Officer John Regan said. “We’re working on expanding [the parking program] to the Model Land Track area, which encompasses the areas around Flagler College.” The program originally began on a trial basis on Avenida Menendez last December.
All of the streets within the area from Orange Street south to King Street and from U.S. 1 east to Cordova Street will be included in the program. Proof of city residency will be required to purchase a street decal once the plan is finalized, which will be within the next two months, according to Regan.
“It accomplishes the goal of making on-street parking available to local users, some of which don’t have driveways or garages,” Regan said.
The expansion of the city program comes during the first semester that Flagler has implemented a new parking policy of its own, which was put in place in response to the city program and to the rising costs of parking in the city, according to Flagler College President William T. Abare, Jr.
“That’s what really kind of promoted our interest in the parking garage, anticipating that this was going to happen, anticipating the frustration of finding parking places,” Abare said. “I think students are wise to go ahead and take advantage of this opportunity to get secured parking in a fairly safe area that is reasonably priced.”
Dean of Student Services Daniel Stewart believes the new Flagler policy has been a successful one. “I haven’t heard many concerns expressed by the students over the parking this year. I’m seeing an awful lot of spots available, especially the ones that I see on campushere, so I think the parking garage has alleviated some of those concerns,” Stewart said.
But junior Jake Sulzer, who lives in the dorms on Cedar Street, says he was not able to purchase an on-campus decal for the Cedar parking lot initially because his parents may not have filled out the paperwork properly.
Sulzer said that he was told by the security office that the decals for Cedar had been sold four times over and he would be unable to purchase one. Rather than have no parking, he opted to buy a pass for the city garage in order to have a place to park.
So far, the school has sold 436 decals for the campus lots, including the parking lot at Malaga Street, and more than 600 parking passes for the city garage, according to Al Howard, director of security. There are 1,170 parking spaces available at the city garage, and 426 spots in the campus lots.
Due to his internship and class schedule, Sulzer decided to travel back and forth from the parking garage and Cedar on his bicycle, as the city shuttle was not convenient for him.
“It doesn’t fit in to a college student’s schedule. You have so much to do with class, eating, my internship … waiting around for the shuttle doesn’t do me any good,” Sulzer said. “Even the simplest thing became a hassle, because if I had to go out and buy something, I’d have to unload it at Cedar, drive my car back to the garage and then ride my bike back.”
While it has its critics, some students feel that the city garage has made parking less stressful. Senior Megan Tattoli purchased a pass for the garage and has been happy with the situation there.
“I think it works for me because I’m a [communication] major and the building is a lot closer than campus,” she said. “The garage is more than half empty every single day. I’ve never parked higher than the second floor.”
A recent change to Flagler’s parking policy allows students who purchased an on-campus decal to park in any of the campus lots designated for student parking regardless of the color or designation of the decal.
The only restriction to this policy is that the main Cedar lot is only open to students with a Cedar decal.
The school is no longer allowing students to exchange decals or passes and refunds will no longer be available.
The purchase of the Florida East Coast Industries buildings on Malaga Street will help with Flagler’s parking situation in the future, adding 152 parking spaces to Flagler’s campus lots. The college will also be able to increase or decrease the number of spots at the city garage depending on student demand, according to Abare.
“We have a very good working relationship with the city, and the city, I think, will be very flexible in working with us in terms of selling parking passes down at the VIC parking garage,” he said.
Regan seconded Abare’s comments. “The structure can accommodate quite a bit of parking needs, and we can definitely make arrangements for Flagler students to park,” he said.
Students who have not purchased either parking plan still have the option to do so for both the on-campus lots and the city garage, although students may not purchase both options.
Those who purchase a pass for the city garage will not be charged the full $200 after September, but will instead be charged $175 as the college is charging $25 per month for each month of the school year.
According to Stewart, a decision on whether the sale of decals will be cut off this semester has not been made yet.
“To my knowledge, we have not put a cap on the number of decals that we would sell on campus, but … you get to a point where it’s administratively irresponsible to sell another decal,” Abare said.