This past weekend was both the grand opening of the 60 million dollar Pleasure Pier and Memorial Day. It was an exciting weekend on the island with an influx of visitors. Despite predictions and preparations, the ratio of cars to land was just not favorable. Screams from the rollercoaster riders were much more tolerable than the horns permeating the atmosphere.
Parking and traffic was much less pleasurable than estimated for everyone. There were local beachgoers, Pleasure Pier thrill seekers, those who desired to be a part of history, weekend surfers, and others who just wanted a relaxing day off at the beach. But, none of these people could anticipate the massive crowds and the massive gridlock that would consume both Broadway and Seawall Blvd.
Beaches were packed despite large amounts of seaweed and strong rip currents. For some of us, surfable conditions are the main attraction, anyway. People were out and about for several reasons; some of which were as simple as the holiday, gas prices being lowered, and a beautiful day to go to the beach.
No doubt the Pleasure Pier was the main attraction. The Pleasure Pier sought to accommodate guests with its premium parking lot located next to Fish Tail’s restaurant. The central problem, however, seems to be the cost visitors are willing to pay to park. Notwithstanding high costs, at peak times over the weekend desperate people caused the lot to reach capacity. The Fish Tails restaurant lot costs $10/hour and $2 for each additional hour for a maximum of $16/day. With both seawall parking packed and lots costly, many visitors opted to park on public streets. Within hours of the Pleasure Pier’s debut, traffic was spilling over to residential neighborhoods much like the ocean spilling on the sand or the seaweed infringing on our beaches. Most traffic complaints came from the area near the Pleasure Pier.
To get an idea of how crowded the island was, we need only look to the statistics. Beach Patrol had its hands full, as well. On a busy day, lifeguards might make a reported 1,000 preventive actions. On Sunday alone, there were well over 3.5 times that amount, according to Peter Davis of Beach Patrol. There were also nearly 40 lost children that had to be reunited with their families. Monday drew even more crowds than Sunday!
Parking and crowds may not always cause gridlock on the island. However, for holidays like July 4, 2012, among others, it is a growing concern that must be addressed. Police officers have put up no parking signs near residential properties and have discussed giving parking permits to those who live there. This is not a solution. There are too many factors: violators would have to be ticketed on foot, those who cannot afford to pay to park in lots will have no other choices, and visitors who want to see friends who live at the houses near the seawall may end up getting ticketed. According to an Austin news site, 800 new jobs were created by the Pleasure Pier. The tourism and the job creation is definitely a plus. But, the parking problem remains a bust. Even those 800 people will need a place to park.
For more info: http://www.pleasurepier.com/
Related info: The surf was up today. Check it out at www.g-townsurf.com. Watch from the surf cam so you have the scoop on seawall parking. To avoid crowds, get your surfing in before the weekend.