© St. Petersburg Times, published February 28, 2001
I'm writing to advocate an enhancement of downtown St. Petersburg's Looper/trolley program.
Downtown currently offers a variety of appealing shops and entertainment districts. But without a parking and transportation program that fits downtown's urban character, shopper and visitor experiences will be restricted and discouraging.
Correspondingly, until urban mobility serves to enhance redevelopment goals, the city will not realize the tax revenues for which redevelopment plans were implemented, and taxpayers will continue to carry a disproportionate tax burden that downtown redevelopment was intended to relieve.
Appealing pockets of activity exist downtown. Retail shops, art galleries, antique and thrift shops, restaurants and nightclubs abound. However, these individual niche markets, grouped as they are, are spread out too far for each to benefit from their collective appeal. An expanded Looper/trolley program would create an image and consolidate the many scattered parts into a single recognizable functioning whole.
Transportation would conveniently connect all parking resources, making surplus parking in one area available to the fluctuating needs that niche markets experience. Such would not only tie these areas together, greatly improving pedestrian traffic to existing activity centers, but the quiet areas between them would probably see improvement.
Considering enhancements of existing programs requires acceptance of two facts. First, shoppers require and expect certain conveniences. Second, parking and transportation are essential urban infrastructure elements, without which the needs of downtown's shoppers, visitors and even residents are poorly served. By providing the one, we satisfy the needs of others.
On the issue of convenience, visitors/shoppers aren't likely to walk the distances between downtown's subdistricts. If visitors have such a notion, the risk of a parking ticket curbs the temptation to walk. Instead, they're more likely to head back to their car and (we hope) travel to another of downtown's interesting areas. In reality, once back in the car their downtown visit ends.
With mobility, this can be reversed. An expanded Looper would enable visitors and shoppers to park longer at one site and relax during their visit. While shoppers pursue their goals, we'd be achieving ours: "redevelopment goals." Increased pedestrian traffic will attract investor, developer and business interests. Vacant retail space will fill, and empty lots are more likely to be developed. Heightened activity will increase demand for existing ground-floor space, and land values will rise. With improved values come increased tax revenue.
Such enhancements require from the mayor, council and administration a recognition that parking and transportation are infrastructure necessities, and providing both is as essential to the urban experience as parking lots are to a mall. Not providing them will stifle the process, restrict revenues and inhibit our ability to expand our redevelopment focus to other areas of the city.
-- John B. Warren, St. Petersburg
Re: Cathedral opts for combining hearings, Feb. 18.
I appreciate the historical value of the former First Baptist Church, currently owned by the Cathedral Church of St. Peter. But I feel the need to create parking close to the cathedral. Razing the former Baptist church seems the most logical step.
As do many parishioners, I attend services several times a week. In addition, I volunteer in St. Peter's ministry to the homeless and needy, "Our Daily Bread."
I purchased a residential zone 2A parking sticker from the city for my car. Yet the few spaces allowed me on Fifth Street are generally filled by 8:30 a.m. Therefore, it is necessary that every two hours I move my car. Where? The Daily Bread clients, abandoned, await my return.
Let us move on and re-evaluate our priorities.
-- Margaret McCabe, St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg is blessedly free of most noises, as cities go. Even the trash collectors use plastic containers. Though police sirens are minimal, we do have our share of ambulance siren noise. This is noise we have to endure while living in an active city.
There is one annoyance we're not immune from: the "boom box" syndrome. It comes in the form of an advanced technology that achieves major low-frequency beat from a car radio/stereo that can be heard blocks away. Not just heard -- felt. It blocks conversation, music, TV and tranquility with its passage. One can hear it in traffic, fully a block away, when one of these wheeled noisemakers approaches. They are usually well-kept, nice-looking machines driven by young males trying to attract young females.
I have difficulty understanding how these drivers endure the noise inside their car, when it utterly distracts me while driving my car in the vicinity. One day I was stopped beside one at a traffic light. I rolled down my window and yelled, "Can you hear that okay?"
The driver looked over and yelled, "What?" Obviously, he couldn't hear me over the din.
"YOUR RADIO!" I screamed. "I can hear YOUR RADIO just fine!"
"Good for you!" He screamed back.
I would like to be good-natured about this, but I believe it breaks the most common form of decency to pollute another's space with noise. I consider it worse than invading another's air space by smoking. It is something that shows blatant selfishness on the part of these people. I wish the police would stop these offenders just as they stop drivers who have defective mufflers.
-- G.I. Basel, St. Petersburg
Re: Mayor accused of selective ticketing, Feb. 21.
The main thing that concerns me about this article is the mayor's slant on the police volunteer program and his comment that the program never intended for these folks to work as code enforcement officers.
I know I must sound like a broken record, but by the looks of some areas in Pinellas Park, code enforcement is grossly understaffed or some of the employees have poor eyesight. I am very happy that Cliff Smith has put in more than 800 hours looking out for our community -- and if he contributes to cleaning up Pinellas Park, then more power to him.
It's annoying that I have to call code enforcement every time I see a violation, but I still contend that making the residents aware of what they cannot do would be the first step in easing code enforcement's burden. My hat's off to Cliff Smith for caring enough to make a difference.
-- Peggy Duncan, Pinellas Park