Next time you’re stuck in rush hour, the traffic inching forward in agonizingly slow stops and starts, take a look around you and ponder this: With so many cars already clogging the streets and highways in Miami-Dade County, how does everyone find a place to park?
Sometimes — whether it’s a Friday night on South Beach or a weekend afternoon at Dolphin Mall — it feels like we can’t.
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Read More: You think parking in Miami is bad? It’s actually a bargain.
Even as residents complain parking is often scarce and too expensive, some real estate developers are minimizing the amount of parking space they provide or doing away with it altogether. City planners are thinking of ways to maximize the parking facilities they already have without adding too many new ones because more parking encourages more cars.
At the heart of the matter is the transition from a car-crazed suburban culture to an urban lifestyle that has far to go before taking hold.
“The Miami 21 code [an urban planning code launched by the City of Miami in 2005] was written to incentivize people to use mass transit,” said Arthur Noriega, CEO of the Miami Parking Authority, which manages 34,000 parking spots in garages, surface lots and off-street spaces within the City of Miami. “But it’s a chicken-or-egg thing because even though you can offer less parking, the transit options are still limited. People are still using their cars.
“The way every other city has grown and evolved is that eventually people got to the point where getting in their car wasn’t time effective or was a quality of life issue,” Noriega said. “People in Miami will migrate there. But you have to provide them options, and there’s no alternative yet. It’s too spotty.”
The obvious solution to parking woes, of course, is to go car-less. But for most people in Miami-Dade County — with its 2.7 million residents spread out over 1,946 square miles — a car remains a necessity for now, or at least a habit that’s supremely difficult to kick.
Here are some facts about parking in Miami that you may not have known.
1. The Deals are Real
Most retail establishments with paid parking already offer some kind of deal to lure customers. If you shop or eat at Brickell City Centre, for example, parking is free for the first two hours. In anticipation of the holiday season, the Shops at Merrick Park is waiving fees for customers who self-park in the upscale mall’s garage from 6 p.m.-2 a.m. daily through the end of 2017.
2. Tech helps
- The City of Coral Gables, for example, uses the ParkMe app to point you toward available parking spaces in real time.
- According to the Miami Parking Authority, Miami has the highest utilization rate of the PayByPhone parking app of any city in North America. Still, demand for parking exceeds supply in some residential neighborhoods, where getting home after 8 p.m. may doom you to a parking space blocks away from your front door.
- Technology has also allowed savvy creatives to realize seemingly-impossible ideas, such as the ability to reserve a prime parking space at a mall in advance. In July, Dadeland announced it was handing over 30 of the mall’s 7,000 parking spaces to the creators of MyPark, a made-in-Miami parking app that allows users to pay $3 through their smartphones to reserve a prime parking spot at the mall for two hours, and $3 an hour after that. MyPark splits the fee with the mall.
3. It Could be Worse
- For Miami residents, today’s parking rates may seem stiff. But comparatively speaking, they’re still a bargain. In the 2017 Global Parking Index report compiled by Parkopedia, Miami ranked 19th in a list of the top 25 cities for weekday two-hour parking, clocking in at a cost of $9.77. New York topped the list as the most expensive in the world with $32.97. Other U.S. cities pricier than Miami included Boston ($20.80), Chicago ($18.66), Washington, D.C. ($14.28) and Philadelphia ($12.18).
- Despite the industry’s big profits, though, parking is not the revenue generator for city and county governments or real estate developers as frustrated residents might think. And Miami isn’t even in the top 20 list of most expensive parking markets in the U.S. According to a study by City Observatory in Portland, Oregon, the monthly rate of parking near City Hall in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area averages $97.65 — dramatically lower than New York ($732), Boston ($457), Pittsburgh ($245) or even Cleveland ($115).
4. It’s Not As Profitable As We Think
For the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2016, the Miami Parking Authority, which manages 37,970 off-street spaces in garages and lots and 11,210 on-street spaces, generated revenues of $34.2 million (including $6.6 million in parking tickets), for a profit of $7.4 million. Parking made up 5 percent of the city’s total revenue of $670 million — far less than many ticket-weary residents might imagine.
The biggest municipality in the entire county — unincorporated Miami-Dade County — also has the smallest parking presence. In 2016, Metrorail stations generated $1.9 million from 9,018 spaces; the Department of Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces made $1.7 million from various locations, including Crandon Park and Matheson Hammock; the Seaport brought in $14.6 million from 6,910 spaces; and Miami International Airport earned $45.3 million from 8,388 spaces. Combined county parking revenues totaled $63.5 million — about 1 percent of the county’s total revenue of $5.7 billion.
5. Except in South Beach
Miami Beach — particularly South Beach — is one of the areas in Miami-Dade County most synonymous with parking woes, including two-hour limits on street parking in busy corridors, strictly-zoned residential areas where visitor parking is prohibited, and $4-per-hour metered rates at surface lots from 9 a.m.-3 a.m. daily.
It is also the county’s second-biggest parking-revenue generator, generating $60.7 million in fiscal year 2016. Revenues included $3.2 million in citations and $544,216 in towing fines. (The city receives $30 from every tow initiated by the police or parking departments). Total profits: $4.1 million. Parking revenues constituted 10.5 percent of the city’s $576.4 million fiscal year 2016 revenue.
6. Ride sharing is the way to go
“South Florida has been one of our fastest-growing markets,” said Kasra Moshkani, general manager of Uber Florida. “We have over a million active riders and 10,000 driver-partners in the area now. Every parking space in a city is land being used for storing a car instead of something else. Imagine what the world could look like if you repurpose all the land taken up by parking lots.”
A Lyft spokesperson said the company does not disclose specific passenger or driver numbers but stated that the company has tripled its ridership in South Florida since the summer of 2016.
7. No Parking is the New Parking
Upcoming Panorama Tower, a mammoth 85-story luxury rental tower nearing completion in Brickell, will offer tenants discounts in place of parking. If you don’t take a parking space, you will get a $1,000 yearly credit to your rent. There’s a lot of uncertainty right now about parking. The hard cost of structured parking — parking in a garage — is $25,000 to 30,000 per stall. The problem is there’s more than just that cost. There’s also operational costs and it also means you can build less office and retail. Everyone is trying to figure out what the right amount of parking is.
8. Design District is serious about affordable parking
Dacra Development CEO and co-founder Craig Robins, who has led the renewal of the Miami Design District, said he believes the cost of parking should be a “non-issue” in order to attract people to visit a neighborhood, so he’s kept the price at the City View Garage on Northeast 38th Street and First Avenue to $3 for four hours and $5 for valet parking. The prices will be the same at the seven-story Museum Garage under construction on Northeast 41st Street, due to open by year’s end. Combined, the two garages will offer 2,000 to 2,500 spaces.