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The city concluded its fourth successful season of free parking and shuttle service offered during the holiday time of Nights of Lights with a total of 19,119 riders and by keeping approximately 6,373 cars out of the historic downtown district. The vehicle total is calculated based on the industry standard of three passengers per vehicle.
This year’s free parking and shuttle service started on Light-Up! Night, Saturday, November 23, and operated through December 29. In recent years, after the Thanksgiving weekend service, the shuttle was offered only on Saturdays in December, with the exception of the first year when the shuttle was offered for the week between Christmas and New Year’s. This year, however, the city offered additional hours of operation following the Christmas holiday for three additional days, Thursday, Friday and Sunday, prior to the New Year’s holiday.
Using a total of four satellite parking locations for Light-Up! Night and two separate shuttle routes, the service offered parking north of the city at a lot on San Marco Ave. and the St. Johns County Health and Human Services Department; and on Anastasia Island at Anastasia Baptist Church and St. Augustine Beach City Hall. The remaining shuttle schedule operated solely out of the two north parking locations and was not offered on Anastasia Island.
In response to public interest and to offer alternative parking options to the downtown workforce, the shuttle schedule was expanded to operate regularly from 8:00am until 11:00pm, with some adjustments to the additional holiday hours due to the weekday availability of some lots being used by clients and employees.
The free park and ride shuttle was developed to provide an alternative transportation service during periods of peak visitation during the first few weeks of the Nights of Lights. Launched in 2016, the program initially operated a total of six parking locations with three separate routes. Additional days and hours of operation that year included the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s and a parking lot at the northwest corner of Highway US 1 and King Street. The inaugural season saw a total ridership of 11,170 and 3,723 vehicles kept out of downtown. At the conclusion of this year’s operations, the program ridership has increased by 71%.
“The shuttle service has evolved over the past four years in response to the need and demand of our riders,” said Xavier Pellicer, the city’s Mobility Program Coordinator. “Our goal is to keep vehicles out of the downtown core, and provide convenient locations to park, so we have tweaked it from year-to-year.”
The city appreciates the cooperation of the following private and governmental entities that made their parking areas available for the program and thus contributed to the continued success of the free park and ride program: St. Johns County Tourist Development Council, St. Johns County Administration, St. Johns County Health and Human Services Department, Anastasia Baptist Church and the City of St. Augustine Beach.
Additionally, on Light-Up! Night, the shuttle service offered on Anastasia is provided free of charge, complements of Old Town Trolley (Historic Tours of America) and Red Train Tours.