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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jan. 30, 200712:00 PM EST

'Smart meters' on the way for Downtown parking places

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

A bill was introduced to the City Council Jan. 23 to appropriate $500,000 to purchase and install new parking meters and poles at approximately 1,000 on-street parking places Downtown.

The new meters will replace most of the 1,600 units currently in place and will be located in “the more heavily trafficked locations around the City Hall, annexes and County Courthouse,” according to language included in the bill.

Assuming the ordinance makes it through the Council’s Finance and Economic, Community and International Development committees and is adopted, the City will issue a request for proposals (RFP) for the procurement of programmable “smartcard” single-space digital parking meters.

There are three manufacturers of the specified type of meters and several options are available ranging from meters that would accept prepaid stored-value cards to more costly devices that would allow people to add time to the meter with their cell phone. Some of the systems available on “smart” meters can even call a cell phone to warn that time is about to expire.

Bob Carle, chief of the Parking Enforcement and Facilities division of the City’s Administration and Finance Department, said he is currently working on developing the specifications for the RFP and he hopes to get the most advanced technology the budget will allow.

“We hope we can get something with cell-phone accessibility,” said Carle.

He added he will seek input for the RFP from the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission’s Infrastructure Task Force. The group has been working on various parking issues including meters that are intended for short-term use and parking garages that are intended to be used by people who need to spend more than an hour in a parking place while they conduct business Downtown.

Carle also said a decision has not been made as to where the stored-value cards would be sold and that the cards might be sold by the City or by local merchants, both Downtown and in other areas – or a combination of the two.

“There are certainly some opportunities here. We are exploring all the options.”

The funds to purchase and install the new meters will come from the Northeast Tax Increment District (taxes paid by Northbank property owners) and the legislation stipulates that the $500,000 will be repaid from parking revenues over a two-year period beginning in fiscal year 2007-08.

Currently, parking revenues generate about $650,000 a year. The money covers the Parking Facilities and Enforcement operating budget with any surplus used to pay other City expenses, including the bonds issued for the Water Street parking garage.

Carle said while it’s too soon to know whether the $250,000 a year reimbursement requirement might lead to any rate increases for parking at a meter, “everything is on the table.”

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