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City’s Free Nights of Lights Park & Ride Shuttle concludes inaugural run

Ridership tops 11,000 over 13-day run, 3,700+ vehicles parked in satellite lots

The city’s inaugural effort at providing a multi-week, park-and-ride operation drew to a close last Saturday, December 31 after a very busy 13-day schedule. The Free Nights of Lights Park and Ride Shuttle drew 11,170 passengers and kept an estimated 3,723 vehicles out of the historic downtown.

The operation’s schedule, each weekend starting on Light-Up! Night, November 19, through New Year’s Eve with weekday service from the day after Christmas through New Year’s Eve, December 31, was developed to provide an alternative transportation service during periods of peak visitation during the first few weeks of the Nights of Lights.

Using a total of six satellite parking locations and three 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; to the west of downtown on West King St.; and on Anastasia Island at R.B. Hunt Elementary School, St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, and the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. While most routes ran from 1:00pm until 11:00pm, adjustments had to be made based on the availability of some lots because of their weekday use by regular clients and employees.

The three days with the most passengers were the three Saturdays in December prior to the Christmas holiday, with December 10 having the highest ridership with over 1,500 passengers. Those three Saturdays and Light-Up! Night, November 19, all garnered over 1,100 riders each day which accounted for nearly half of all shuttle passengers over the 13 day schedule.

Nearly 90% of those using the shuttle parked in the lots north of downtown, with the remaining using the lots on West King St and Anastasia Island. While vehicles using the satellite parking were not counted, by using the generally accepted industry calculation of three-people per vehicle, there were an estimated 3,726 vehicles parked with the number reaching 400 to 500 cars on the peak days.

The only two days when the passenger total dropped below 500 was on a date with rainy weather over Northeast Florida, Thursday, December 29, and Saturday, December 31, when the island parking areas were not available as they were serving shuttles to St. Augustine Beach’s Beach Blast Off.

Total cost of the Nights of Lights Park & Ride Shuttle has not yet been fully calculated but has been estimated as approximately $3,500 per day, a figure which fluctuated each day depending on the number of shuttles, the availability of routes and the hours of operation.

The city appreciates the cooperation of private and governmental entities that made their parking areas available for the program and thus contributed to the success of this initial effort: St. Johns County Administration, St. Johns County Health and Human Services Department, R. B. Hunt Elementary School, St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, and the St. Augustine Amphitheatre.