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Friday, March 31, 2023

The worst places to drive and park in Gainesville

I’ve been driving in Gainesville for about five years now, and sometimes I hate it. On occasion I envy the students who live on campus and have no reason to own a car. Gainesville has a decent public transit system and University of Florida and Santa Fe students can ride for free with their student IDs. However, when you’re a commuting student, sometimes you get stuck with driving.

Here’s a local girl’s guide to the worst places to have to drive in Gainesville.

The worst places to drive

Archer Road: When I was first driving on my own, my parents instituted a rule that I avoid driving on Archer Road. While that didn’t last very long, because I started working at a restaurant on Archer Road, their feelings were based on a reality. Archer Road is a terrible place to drive.

Why it is a difficult drive? Due to the many major retail shops on the road, large amounts of customers are driving down this major road every day. Add in all the diners from the restaurants and all the commuters heading to Interstate 75, and you’ve got some traffic.

When’s the worst time to drive? Always avoid Archer Road during rush hour. On some weekdays, rush hour literally stops traffic. Avoid Archer Road from about 4 p.m. until about 6:30 p.m.

Newberry Road: Newberry Road is the major road in northwest Gainesville. It is most well known for being the road that the Oaks Mall is on. It is a very similar situation to Archer Road, and it can be pretty crowded and a frustrating drive.

Why it is a difficult drive? Newberry Road is the home to the Oaks Mall, North Florida Regional Medical Center and one of the busiest I-75 exits in town. The traffic is the worst during rush hour, and the traffic can verge on dangerous. Add in ambulances going in and out of North Florida, and you’ve got a bad traffic situation.

When’s the worst time to drive? While rush hour is the time drivers should avoid Newberry Road the most, nights can be very difficult as well with many diners headed to the restaurants. However, the holiday season is the worst. Avoid Newberry Road from Thanksgiving through December; you’ll be happy you did.

13th Street near University of Florida campus: While the traffic in Gainesville generally lightens up during the summer, as most of the students have left, traffic is a general nightmare around the University of Florida campus during the Fall and Spring semesters. The stretch of 13th Street from Archer Road to University Avenue can sometimes be like a parking lot.

Why it is a difficult drive? When students, faculty and staff are all leaving campus at the same time, small 13th Street can’t handle the traffic.

When’s the worst time to drive? Around 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. during the Fall and Spring semester massive amounts of drivers leave campus at the same time. Take a detour, and avoid major roads this time of day.

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The worst places to park

Downtown Gainesville: Parking in Downtown Gainesville is someone’s sick version of hell. Not only is there extremely limited parking, but the parking garages are a grand annoyance.

Why is parking terrible? Parking downtown is ridiculously limited. Most parking spots are reserved for certain businesses, metered or parallel. Maybe you’ll get lucky enough to get a free parking spot, but it’s unlikely unless you circle the area waiting for departing vehicles.

What’s the worst part? There isn’t enough free parking Downtown, especially on Wednesdays during the Farmers Market. While many of the businesses in the area drop their parking restrictions at night, some parking lots, like the Sun Center’s, still tow.

The parking is so limited that most people who work Downtown aren’t allowed to use most free parking unless it’s a certain distance from their place of employment. The parking garages are meant to be a solution to the parking problem. However the card readers are lately out of order, and if you try to pay with a large bill, you may get incorrect change back from the machines in coins. I speak from experience.

University Avenue: Parking on University Avenue can be can be decent at some points during the day, however many nights there is very little parking available.

Why is parking terrible? Most of the parking on University Avenue is parallel or limited to patrons of certain businesses. Depending on what part of the road you are on, you may not have any other parking options than on the street. If you try to park in a restricted area you run the risk of getting towed by roam towing. Do not be fooled, towing is a legitimate thing to fear.

So what’s the solution? Patience is the solution. Circle the area until you find a space, or choose to visit one of the businesses that have private parking. The only other option is to park in a distant area and walk.

Royal Park Plaza: Royal Park Plaza is home to the Regal Royal Park Stadium 16 movie theater, as well as many popular restaurants like Moes, Bento Café Blue and Gator’s Dockside. The parking is actually very ample in this plaza during most hours. However, the popular movie nights make parking very difficult.

Why is parking terrible? On Friday and Saturday nights especially, the parking lot at the Regal Royal Park Stadium 16 movie theater fills up fast. This is particularly the case on nights where major new films are being released. The problem with this is that customers at movie theaters don’t free up spaces very often (because they are sitting in movies, which tend to last a while). In this situation, just circling the parking lot for spaces can be a waste of time.

So what’s the solution? Be careful when parking in the rest of the parking lot. It may seem like a good solution since the parking lot is so large, but it my experience this can backfire. Once I encountered a parking attendant while heading to the movies one Saturday night. He informed me that I couldn’t park in front of Moes if I was going to the theater. I’ve been cautious ever since. You should too. Simply get to the theater sufficiently early to get a spot.

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