Fifty bucks for six hours of premo parking in Old Town? And the City of Key West provides the parking lot gratis?
Now you may be thinking “Crikey, that’s a lot of money for parking. It’s darn near $10 an hour.” Nah, you’re wrong. That’s nothing, A pittance.
Why? Because that’s $50 for one mass-quantity bus. You know the ones. Filled with day-tripping tourists? Those massive “motor coaches,” complete with WiFi, that ply the two lanes of the Overseas Highway between Miami and Key West?
They do a daily dump of hundreds of sightseers at the bottom of Duval for six hours of wandering the streets, discovering (and complaining) that we don’t have tourist-fancy beaches, and occasionally spending money on a $5 T-shirt (or three for $10).
These lumbering, over-sized charter buses come down daily from Miami and have become the scourge of Key West’s narrow, one-way and dead-end streets. Their sides and back ends spill across two lanes, they struggle with multiple three-point turns attempting to get around a corner and they park their waddling carcasses anywhere they darn please until a cop runs them off.
A couple years ago, the city said it was building a nine-bus parking lot in the 900 block of Caroline St., just down the block from the start of the Duval Crawl. And, lordy, lordy, the city’s going to charge each bus all the way to $50 a day to park there.
Now that’s a nice chunk of change for the city coffers. Nothing wrong with $450 a day of unearned income. Except that it ought to be double that. Heck, let’s triple it. Quadruple it.
These charters charge each passenger between $75 and $100 for the round-trip. Passengers are encouraged to bring along their own snacks (then they don’t have to spend money eating in Key West.) The bus company’s only going to pass along what would amount to a few bucks to the riders. What do we care?
Key West ought to ban charter buses anywhere in Old Town except in this new Caroline Street lot — and then charge outrageous fees for the premium location. No drop-offs or pick-ups except at Caroline Street.
Ban all the other charter buses from Old Town and require them to park off island, in the retail shopping area lots or in the high school lot on weekends (and charge them there, too.) In short, if your charter bus crosses the Cow Key Bridge, there’s gonna be a fee commensurate with the size of the bus. Big.
If the charter owners balk and say they’re not coming to Key West anymore, well, then, most excellent. These are not revenue producing visitors. Farewell and don’t let the door hit you broadside on the way out of town.
P.S. The same — except with a tenfold increase in the daily fee to $500 for the day — applies to the approximately 75 chartered party buses that disgorge thousands of Fantasy Fest day trippers in October.
These benighted souls come equipped with coolers, camp chairs and survival packs of adult beverages and food, and lay claim to blocks and blocks of sidewalk. Even the city acknowledges they don’t spend money; they just clutter — and litter — the streets.
Solution’s simple: Put a gigonzo parking fee hurt on the charter buses. It might curtail the spend-no-money riffraff. And, if it doesn’t?
At $500 a day per bus times 75 Fantasy Fest buses, that’s $37,500. Not a bad ROI for parking.
Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of KeyWestWatch Media, a small business digital media solutions company. Clearly, she’s not rationale about those buses.