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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Sep. 7, 200612:00 PM EST

Metered parking likely here to stay

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

If you’re like most people who park in metered spaces Downtown, there has probably been a time that you have returned to your vehicle and found a green envelope under your wiper blade.

It’s more prone to happen on some streets than others and there is a reason for that.

“It starts with the traffic,” said Bob Carle, chief of Parking Facilities & Enforcement. “Increased traffic leads to increased probability for violations and citations. It’s directly proportional.”

The City is divided into zones and each zone is patrolled every day, he added.

“We pay attention to all areas and we don’t pay more attention to any area more than another area,” said Carle, who pointed out that parking meters in the urban core are a necessary fact of life and that Jacksonville is not unique when it comes to parking Downtown.

“There is a reason that Jacksonville operates like other major metropolitan areas. Virtually every metropolitan area has short-term parking enforced by meters. Why? Because it has been proven that it works for moving people around,” said Carle. “The purpose of meters is to turn over parking places. The more we are able to turn over parking, the more retailers will benefit by allowing more people to come to their businesses.”

Carle thinks that most of the parking problems are actually perception problems.

“Parking is a problem if you expect to park outside the front door of the place that you are visiting. If you’re willing to walk a block, parking is no problem,” he said.

Changes have been proposed to the parking regulations ranging from extending the maximum time on a meter to three hours all the way to eliminating parking meters entirely.

“I would be concerned about it going to three hours,” said Carle. “I believe it would reduce the number of vehicles you could park in the same number of spaces every day, so fewer people could occupy the spaces over the course of eight hours. It’s contrary to what everybody thinks it would do.”

Carle said that he thinks eliminating meters entirely is completely out of the question.

With only about 1,600 metered spaces and 50,000 workers Downtown each day, Carle said, “People who work Downtown would get here before all the retail customers. They would stay on the meters all day to save the $80 a month for parking. There would be no place to park for people visiting retailers, restaurants or public buildings. It would be an utter disaster.”

Meter-feeding – staying in the same parking place and putting more money in the meter – is also something that reduces availability of parking, according to Carle.

“Feeding the meter is illegal because it defeats the purpose of short-term parking,” he said. “Employees of businesses who use metered parking as their long-term parking option are only hurting the businesses because they are disallowing customers to park there and have access to the business.”

No matter what the future holds for parking meters, the ordinances currently in effect will be enforced and if you break the law, you might find one of those green envelopes on your windshield.

“We are legally obligated to enforce the meters. Unless and until the wisdom of the City Council is to change the law, our role is to enforce the laws we are obligated to enforce,” said Carle.

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