SEND BEN: Sign of times as parking prices in downtown Jacksonville increase but signage called ‘misleading’

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax is investigating new parking prices in downtown Jacksonville including signage some are calling misleading.

“You have to pay to work around here?” asked Action News Jax Ben Becker. “Yes you do,” says Alan Newton who works for the City of Jacksonville’s building and inspection division, and his frustration is building with downtown parking.

“Sometimes you have to make a decision to pay this bill or am I going to pay the parking garage bill,” says Newton.

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Newton, like thousands of city employees and downtown workers, pays to park — but costs are going up by an average of 20% at city owned garages and lots.

“The real idea is to balance supply and demand,” says Lori Boyer, who is the CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority. She says prices were raised to increase parking space turnover. “When you have long wait lists and you have some people waiting to get into these garages need to create pricing structures that makes people choose where they want to park.”

In addition to the 20% increase, the city plans to remove a 50% monthly discount for workers — meaning hundreds of dollars more in yearly parking costs.

The Ed Ball building garage used to be $1 per hour — but no more than $7 a day — but there are signs of change.

“So you find this sign confusing?” asked Becker. “Yes I do,” said Newton, who showed Becker the rate sign at Ed Ball.

The pricing is done in half hour increments — so while Newton believed he was paying $4 for two hours of parking, he was surprised when the total jumped to $10.75 because the pricing is stacked.

Newton complained to the city and sent me the email he received from the public parking coordinator that told him half hour pricing is “the industry standard in garages.”

“I am not a big fan of overpricing parking garages,” says Jerry Marcus who is a parking consultant and former board member of the National Parking Association. He says there’s no standard for the actual signs.

“I like to have the total for the length of time,” said Marcus “That’s less confusing rather than increment. Frankly they got that from a meter sign.”

Marcus says that’s because a parking meter sign has to be short, whereas a garage sign can and should be larger.

Becker texted pictures of the signs to Boyer during their interview for her to take a look.

“You’re probably right,” said Boyer. “There could be clarity that could (be) added to that signage.”

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A day later, Boyer sent Becker an email:

“We are having a new sign printed with the rate for 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 90 minutes, etc. Do you think that eliminates the confusion?”

There are other parking options downtown, including the three First Baptist Church garages which cost half as much as the city garages, but are a longer walk.

Garage prices aren’t the only ones increasing downtown. Metered parking has quadrupled from $5 to $20 a day at more than 900 downtown parking meters so drivers can’t squat in spaces.

In addition, DIA plans to add digital parking pay station kiosks and mobile apps by early 2023.