CLEARWATER — The city has a new parking director.
Steve Reiter, who took over the helm from former parking director Mark Yedinak on June 24, will be in charge of one of the city’s most public-facing departments.
The parking director oversees city-owned parking garages, lots and street parking used by residents, businesses and the millions of tourists who visit the city from the Gulf beaches to the shores of Tampa Bay.
According to City Manager Bill Horne, Reiter will answer to Engineering Director Scott Rice. Reiter, who comes to Clearwater after more than three years as manager of parking and administration at the Indianapolis Airport Authority, will help the city modernize and manage its parking systems.
“Mr. Reiter’s first task will be to assist on upgrading parking equipment to take advantage of new technology,” Horne said.
Reiter’s experience managing one of Indiana’s largest parking systems — Indianapolis International Airport took in about $60 million in parking revenue in 2018 — is seen as a plus for a city that wants to improve its parking platforms.
Indianapolis International, which manages approximately 8 million airline passengers a year, has a large terminal garage, economy lot, Park & Walk lots and valet parking services. According to Reiter, the economy lot alone moves 3 million to 5 million passengers to the terminal each year. To help with the task, the airport bought nine electric buses to decrease the facility’s carbon footprint.
With its automatic vehicle identification (AVI) tags that affix to vehicle windshields, the airport can limit lot access to registered drivers who either pre-pay or allow the airport to deduct payment. The pre-programmed tags also help monitor space availability.
The AVI system let the airport create its “parkIND Plus Program” system, which awards free parking points and reduced parking rates for frequent travelers. The airport’s users could sign up for the program online and access their account using a secure login, Reiter said.
Rice said his new parking director will help the city install a license plate recognition (LPR) system at its parking facilities.
“LPR helps to increase efficiency of garage and lot operations and improves parking enforcement,” Rice told the Beacon. “We also use equipment to sense parking space usage, which allows for directing motorists to available parking.” The city also wants to use the system to gather data for planning the location of future parking, Rice said.
“With LPR, when a person comes to park in a garage or lot, cameras register their license plates into the system,” Reiter said. “Traffic personnel that monitor the lots can ensure drivers have paid for their parking quickly.”
Reiter will likely be involved more in the managing of technology than in the management of upset business owners, Horne said.
In addition to more on-street parking, business owners in the downtown area want better signage to direct customers to existing parking near their businesses. Members of the Downtown Merchants Association, frustrated over what they consider the city’s failure to quickly address parking, shouted at city managers during a recent merchant association meeting.
Reiter will be in charge of the existing city parking technology rather than cooling tempers during debate over the future of parking availability.
“He will be a manager within the Engineering Department,” Horne said. “He will attend meetings, at times with others, but only representing the city parking system.”
In addition to keeping parking garages and meters operating, the parking director’s job includes setting hourly and monthly parking rates and revenue collection. Yedinak, Reiter’s predecessor here, performed a study of parking rates in beach cities, including St. Pete Beach, Miami, Jacksonville, and Fort Lauderdale, before raising Clearwater’s beach parking rates to $3 an hour.
Reiter, who also had to worry about heavy snow in the Indianapolis airport’s vast parking lots, said he’s excited to be in sunny Florida.
“Everyone at the city has been very enthusiastic and welcoming, so I am sure Clearwater is going to be a great fit for me and my family,” Reiter said.