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Pensacola mayoral candidate Drew Buchanan on Monday announced that as mayor, he will work with the city council to make street parking in downtown Pensacola free.

“Downtown parking is a mess, and we’re going to clean it up,” Buchanan said. “The ever-changing fees, confusing rules, and broken meters frustrate visitors and hurt our small businesses. It’s time to send the message that downtown Pensacola is open for business. Simplifying our downtown parking system by making street parking free will make it easier for everyone to do business in downtown Pensacola and enjoy our incredible shops, dining, museums, and more.”

There are currently more than 6,800 public parking spaces in downtown Pensacola, in addition to more than 14,000 private parking spaces.

Downtown Pensacola. (Special to The Pulse)

Under Buchanan’s plan, parking fees would be eliminated for all downtown street parking spaces, but high-demand spaces would still be time-managed — essentially expanding the system that is currently used for parking on Palafox Street. Fees would still be collected for public parking garages like the Jefferson Street Garage, which require ongoing maintenance. Parking enforcement would be handled by the Pensacola Police Department using police cadets, as was the case before the Downtown Improvement Board took over parking management in 2008.

“The vast majority of the money the DIB takes in from paid parking goes right back out to pay for expensive enforcement contracts and paystations,” Buchanan said. “Shockingly little of the money is used for actual needs. It’s time to streamline this unnecessary bureaucracy, place control of back in the hands of the people’s elected representatives, and make things easier for those visiting downtown Pensacola.”

Buchanan also said he would work with Escambia County and the private sector to open up nearly 1,000 parking spaces at underused parking garages, including the taxpayer-owned Intendencia Street and Judicial Center garages, which remain largely empty on evenings and weekends.

As mayor, Buchanan would also replace downtown Pensacola’s patchwork of mismatched signage with a clear, unified wayfinding system to make it easy for visitors to locate available parking. Buchanan also plans to implement a downtown bike share program, along with new bike lanes, bike racks, and pedestrian improvements to make it easier to enjoy downtown Pensacola without a car.

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Editor’s note: Drew Buchanan is the former publisher of The Pulse.

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