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Parking fees begin in June

Starting on June 15, all public parking lots along Ocean Boulevard in North Myrtle Beach will charge $2 per hour, payable by downloading an app to a smartphone and using a credit or debit card.

Those who live in the city and have vehicles registered there will be able to use a residential permit system to allow them free parking, though the details are still being worked out, and the number of vehicles allowed may be limited, according to a press release.

Up to now, the parking fee had only applied to four existing parking lots at 4th Avenue North (oceanfront), 3rd Avenue North (oceanfront), 4th Avenue South (second row) and 27th Avenue South (oceanfront). They made up a total of 116 paid parking spaces.

“Effective June 15, 2019, another 1,284 parking spaces on either side of Ocean Boulevard will be added to the city’s paid parking program for a total of about 1,400 paid parking spaces,’’ said Pat Dowling, city spokesperson.

The plan is for the charges to only be paid for the summer season this year and during the hours of 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., although that has not been officially decided, Dowling said.

“This is not yet written in stone but, tentatively, the first year it would be from June 15 possibly through the month of September, and in following years possibly March through September,’’ Dowling said. “This first year will be a learning experience for the city and we will study the parking data throughout the year to determine usage, peak and low times, etc. We have not had this kind of data before and it will enable us to tweak or improve the program where necessary.’’

The city council heard in early March from a consultant study that made the recommendation, as well as others such as prohibiting any parking in the Ocean Boulevard median, which the city also adopted.
People will still be able to find free parking on side streets by beach accesses, Dowling said.

The city started charging $2 per hour last year in the four lots because there were complaints that people who worked or stayed in nearby buildings were taking advantage of the spaces instead of parking in designated lots. Charging by the hour was a means to fix that problem, according to previous reports.

People parking in the lots will have to down load an app called “passport,’’ estimate the number of hours they will be staying and pay up front. People can extend their time by using their phone to add about an hour onto the initial fee, he said. There will be no way to pay by coin as there will not be parking meters. Those who don’t have their debit card with them could go to a convenience store and buy a pre-paid credit card, he said.

“When those who manage the lots for the city come by to check on parking in that lot, they will read all of the license plates in that lot, including the license plate number that you entered when you paid for your time. If your time has expired, a ticket will be issued. If a license plate in the lot does not show up as having paid at all, a ticket will be issued,’’ Dowling said, adding, “This is a common way to pay for parking time, and it saves jurisdictions (taxpayers) a lot of money in that they do not have to install parking meters or maintain them.’’

City council directed the city manager to also:

Extend about 10 oceanfront public parking lots between 4th Avenue North and Sea Mountain Highway to create about 210 new parking spaces.

Explore the potential for an open-air trolley or other form of shuttle to bring people from an in-city parking location to several public parking lots on the oceanfront.

About Melissa Huff Salvatore