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Downtown businesses benefit from working parking meters

Customers exeprience big difference after investigation

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Downtown business owners said they are thankful the city finally took action after a News4Jax investigation revealed more than 100 broken meters in the downtown core.

The broken parking meters was costing the city nearly $8,000 a month in lost revenue. 

Some of these meters were being used by city employees who were benefiting from parking for free all day, instead of paying to park in a garage.  Parking meters are meant for visitors to downtown, not for employees.

“My customers are actually able to find a parking place.  It's turning over like it's supposed to," explained Vikki Wilkins owner of the UPS store on Hogan Street, across from the city's government offices at the Ed Ball building.

Wilkins believed in the movement to revitalize downtown and mortgaged her home to open the store 12 years ago.  She said parking is the number one reason she has the lowest customer count of all eight merchants who share the block with her on Hogan, between Adams and Monroe streets

"When you make it easy for people to do business downtown, that's when they will come," said Wilkins.

The business owner said her customers complain about not being able to find parking and going to other UPS stores in Riverside and San Marco since they often have heavy packages to carry and do not want to walk four or five blocks to get to a store to mail them.

All eight of the merchants on the block, share six parking meters, which are designated for 30 minutes only.  Yet, four of those six meters were broken and had been for months when News4Jax investigated.

Wilkins said many of those spaces were being tied up by city employees working across the street in the Ed Ball building.  When a meter is broken, parking enforcement officers do not know if someone paid the meter or how long they have stayed in the spot, allowing drivers to park for free, all day often times without being ticketed.

After News4Jax began asking questions, those meters were fixed.  The same repairs were made around the corner, on Adams Street, which also flanks the Ed Ball building. 

"I have noticed a difference today alone, there were parking places.  It's better, better. Thank you," Greg Vaccaro, owner of Gus's Shoe Repair, expressed after the investigation.

The city has since sent a letter to all its employees reminding them they should park along non- metered streets or in parking garages and not in metered parking spots since News4Jax exposed the issue.  It also warned them not to "feed the meter", explaining enforcement officers would be stepping up their patrols around city buildings to make sure the metered parking spots are being used by visitors and not employees.

"Hopefully this will mean more convenience for my customers and a better bottom line for all the merchants around town," Vaccaro said. "I've been complaining for two years, it took you two weeks.  Thank you."

Joyce Hamilton, owner of Knott & Co. Jewelers across from the UPS store on Hogan Street, said she attributes the changes she's seen, to News4Jax showing up. 

“It's been a lot quicker since you've been here, it being televised and being aware that it's not acceptable," Hamilton explained. 

Hamilton said she has noticed more turn-around in parking spots outside her business, which was started more than 100 years ago.  Knott & Co. Jewelers has always been a downtown store.


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