Broken Parking Meters Cost Jacksonville Thousands Of Dollars
Hundreds of Jacksonville’s newest parking meters designed to accept credit cards are missing batteries.
They not only won't swipe your cards, they won't even accept a quarter for you to park for 30 minutes.
If any the 1,575 meters is broken, the city does not ticket a driver because there is no way to know if he or she paid or how long he or she parked in the spot.
A spokesperson said metered parking brings in $706,566 annually.
Digital meters alone should bring in $436,029 every year, but the city said 116 of 547 meters are not operational.
In two weeks of walking up and down the city's downtown, News4Jax found 120 of Jacksonville's newest meters were broken, after checking just 329 of the 547 digital meters.
That's not only costing the city an estimated $7,920 per month, it also robs downtown visitors of a place to park their cars.
"Parking is a very big problem," said Sharon Stewart when asked why she was double parked on Adams Street near the Duval County Courthouse.
"I have driven around the block nonstop, and I still can't find a parking spot,” she said.
Stewart is not alone.
City officials would not speak on camera about why so many meters are broken, but a spokesperson explained in an email that hundreds of the digital meters need new batteries.
Those are the meters that are five years old or older.
The city bought 300 new batteries, which cost about $30 each, but some of them are still not working.
The manufacturer has been in Jacksonville trying to figure out why, but hasn't been able to fix them.
Business owners say the meters have been broken for months.
"The loss of revenue is tremendous, not just to the city but to my business," said Greg Vaccaro, owner of Gus' and Company Shoe and Luggage Repair.
Vaccaro said that with so many broken meters, drivers who work in the city's government offices across from his shop on Adams Street near Hogan park there all day, preventing his customers from getting to his store.
"The customers that come in with a five- or 10-minute shoe shine or dropping off shoes drive around the block four or five times and call me up and say, ‘I can't find a parking place. I'll have to come back another day or find another shoemaker,"' Vaccaro said.
Vikki Wilkins, who owns a UPS store around the corner from Vaccaro's shop on Hogan and Monroe Streets, said the same problem is plaguing her store.
"Now that they're broken, you can sit there all day, and they do, and they've been broken for forever. My customers cannot get here. I have over 300 mail boxes they have to check every day to come get their mail, and you have to park three to four blocks away to run into my store for five minutes," Wilkins said.
The meters that line the street in front of her business at Hogan Street between Adams and Monroe, limit drivers to 30 minutes only.
Four of the six meters are broken.
Wilkins became so desperate last week, she printed signs and posted them on the broken meters asking drivers not to park for longer than 15 minutes.
The city removed the signs.
After yet another complaint, Wilkins said the city finally fixed them. However, the meters across from Vaccaro's shoe repair shop were still not working.
City Council Members Want Parking Meters Fixed
Two City Council members started demanding answers Thursday, following a News4Jax investigation into broken parking meters downtown.
City Council Vice President Lori Boyer said she had no idea the meters were even a problem until News4Jax contacted her.
“Until this week we were not aware,” Boyer said. “I, as a Council member, was not aware this was an ongoing problem.”
Councilman Matt Schellenberg was also in the dark.
He summoned Paul Crawford with the city's Economic Development Office for an explanation during a committee meeting last week after hearing about the News4Jax investigation.
“For years these meters have never given us any problems up until the last quarter of 2015, they started to go out and they started to go out in mass,” Crawford said.
Crawford wouldn't speak on camera, but he explained to the Council the batteries in the digital meters all started failing at once. And even though the city bought 300 new ones, many are still not working.
The manufacturer hasn't been able to figure out why.
Schellenberg asked why the Council hadn't been told.
“I apologize. We should have reached out to you earlier,” Crawford said.
As News4Jax was preparing to interview Boyer, parking meter maintenance crews showed up and began replacing the broken meters on Adams Street.
Some of the meters have been temporarily replaced with older, functional ones until the new meters arrive.
Boyer said she would check them in 60 days to make sure the new ones are working and the batteries aren’t bad. If they are bad, Boyer said the Council will have to make some tough decisions if they have to replace all of them. Each meter costs about $645.
City employees received letters Friday reminding them not to park in metered spaces.
They were told to park in long-term lots or garages.
The city warned employees that enforcement officers are stepping up patrols and will be issuing tickets if they park in metered spaces.