JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Parking in any big city is always at a premium. That’s why city leaders are pushing to lower the cost of a space downtown.
"How long have we been talking about downtown? And where are we,” asked City Councilman Bill Gulliford.
Gulliford said one issue is parking. That's why he's supporting an ordinance that would change how city-owned parking facilities are managed. If passed, the parking proposal would give the City of Jacksonville all the power to change parking meter and garage rates without approval of city council. Supporters say that will give them more flexibility to compete with private parking operations who dominate the downtown parking landscape.
Out of the 21,000 spaces available, only 2,800 are operated by COJ, according to a 2006 study.
Gulliford said it’s not city council’s place to regulate and approve items like parking fees.
"Give them an opportunity,” said Gulliford. “Give them enough rope to either make a lasso or hang themselves."
The current rate for an hour in a city-operated parking garage is $1. But there's a $0.07 tax. That means when you pay with $2, you're getting $0.93 in change.
Parking officials said having to deal with change to pay for parking detracts people from coming downtown.
That's why the city's parking director, Jack Shad, plans to cut the rate to $0.93, making the fee $1 total.
Gulliford said this parking proposal isn't about generating more money for the city. His goal is to use the promise of cheaper parking as a bargaining chip to attract employers downtown.
"Maybe you're not going to make as much revenue but by the same token you pull a business or two that you wouldn't have gotten,” said Gulliford.
The Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee passed the proposal with a unanimous vote. The full city council will vote on the issue Tuesday.
Downtown Vision Inc. is also supporting the measure.