Proposed Solution For Key West Parking Problems: Not More Spaces, But Fewer Cars

Sep 21, 2018

The downtown area of Key West was developed in the 1800s, before cars. Now it's a busy and successful area with lots of businesses and residents - a lot of them competing for parking on the street.

A group formed to help the Key West City Commission find solutions to parking and traffic congestion issues in the downtown area came up with a finding that some on the island might find surprising — that the problem is not a lack of parking spaces.

"In order to alleviate traffic congestion, you really want to find places to put cars outside of the commercial core district," said Roger McVeigh, who chaired the group that presented its findings to the Key West City Commission.

They came up with 25 recommendations. Three of them were unanimously approved by the City Commission on Thursday. They include lowering speed limits and reserving more parking spaces downtown for residents so visitors will pay at city meters — or choose not to drive.

"The idea is to get fewer people driving cars into town by using public transit, riding bicycles, parking out and riding a shuttle into town etc.," McVeigh said.

The city is also raising rates at pay stations and city lots to $4 an hour.

McVeigh said Key West, developed before the automobile, should embrace alternatives.

"We've grown up in a culture that there's not enough parking in the commercial core district of Key West, the Old Town area of Key West. But in reality what they're saying is 'There's not free parking within one block of where I want to go,' " he said.

McVeigh said the group was open to adding more parking in Old Town, but with the goal of replacing spaces that could be removed from the street after an upcoming transportation review.

"A lot of the corners have parking too close to the corners — there's line of sight issues," he said. "There's going to be a need to remove parking and maybe a second level that's aesthetically pleasing on certain lots would be acceptable — if we can use that increased capacity to take places away that are on the street."