By Allison Jarrell

In an effort to increase business while decreasing parking problems in downtown San Juan, the City Council voted Dec. 15 to pursue a program that encourages visitors and residents to utilize rideshares such as Uber or Lyft to travel into town.

The concept, brought before the council by Mayor Pam Patterson, entails recruiting restaurant and shop owners to participate in a promotion offering a uniform discount to patrons who show their rideshare receipts. Patterson said offering diners and shoppers a 10 percent discount, for example, for using rideshare services on the city’s busiest, most congested nights, would encourage more business without adding additional cars. Patterson said it would also be beneficial for residents to know they can earn extra income by becoming rideshare drivers.

Patterson said she has been collaborating with the San Juan Chamber of Commerce and the Heritage Tourism Association since September on the program, adding that she has received 100 percent interest from the dozen or so restaurant and shop owners she’s reached out to.

A letter from the chamber supporting the rideshare program noted that it has the potential to not only “assist the community with parking and traffic relief,” but also to promote safer driving.

Councilman Sam Allevato proposed including businesses on the east side of town in the promotion, noting that some restaurants have been struggling in Marbella Plaza. Patterson agreed that it would be a good idea to include businesses outside of the downtown area.

Councilman Derek Reeve proposed that Patterson appoint a mayoral subcommittee and bypass staff so their time isn’t taken away from other projects. Patterson replied that the program has been slow moving and she would prefer staff draft and send a letter to businesses and then potentially hand over the responses to the chamber or HTA. She added that once at least 24 businesses sign on to participate, Uber will launch advertising to promote the city’s rideshare program.

“I really was hoping that this would have been implemented by now,” Patterson said. “We do need parking solutions, and we need them right away.”

The resolution to direct staff to work with Patterson on the program was approved 4-1, with Reeve opposing.

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