Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Quarter fees and parking fines more than pocket change for St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg Parking Enforcement tickets a vehicle on First Avenue N last week. St. Petersburg recently raised parking fines to $25.


St. Petersburg Parking Enforcement tickets a vehicle on First Avenue N last week. St. Petersburg recently raised parking fines to $25.

ST. PETERSBURG — It now costs more than ever to park downtown.

The city has raised rates, expanded pay hours and nearly doubled the number of meters downtown as a way to put more money into its cash-strapped coffers.

The measures are expected to generate nearly $1-million in extra revenue next year.

But the efforts come as business owners are struggling to get customers in the door. BayWalk faces foreclosure, Muvico Theaters is considering pulling out of the area and downtown's office vacancy rate is at a nine-year high. Consumers can barely afford to shop or eat out, let alone pay parking fines, critics say.

Already this year, the city has earned $276,000 more in citations and parking meter fees over last year. Where the added revenue is coming from:

• There are now 1,450 parking meters in the greater downtown area, up from 850 meters in 2006.

•In October, parking fines jumped from $17.50 to $25. Pay late (after 15 days) and the fine is $40.

• Enforcement hours were expanded at dozens of time-limited parking spaces this year.

• Parking meter rates increased from 25 cents to 50 cents an hour.

The new revenue streams are good news for taxpayers, because general fund money has been needed to cover shortfalls in the parking department for the past two years. Next year, officials expect the department to be self-sufficient.

Business owners who worry their customers won't be able to find a convenient space also stand to benefit from the new rules.

Parking fees discourage downtown workers on long shifts from gobbling up all the street parking, leaving spaces free for potential customers, said Joe Kubicki, the city's transportation director. It also encourages turnover during lunch and dinner rushes.

"A couple of business owners have said that the fine is now punitive enough to change driver behavior and encourage people to follow the law by paying the meter or obeying the time limit," Kubicki said.

The new fees are reasonable, said Elaine Smalling, vice president of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership. "People expect when they are visiting a city that they are going to have to pay for parking," she said.

But not everyone is happy.

A small, but growing group of critics believes the fines are too high and have suggested that the city suspend parking fines, at least until the economy improves.

"I've heard people say they won't come downtown because of the parking situation," said Jim Watters, owner of Bruce Watters Jewelers on Beach Drive.

City officials counter that free parking would create too much congestion and hurt the bottom line. They are counting on an estimated $4.5-million in parking fees and fines in 2009, up from $3.6-million this year.

"We charge for parking to manage parking availability," Kubicki said. "Free parking would be a mess."

In Tampa, Mayor Pam Iorio removed parking meters from streets in Ybor City earlier this year to improve business in the historic district. That cost Tampa's already overstrained parking department $200,000.

In St. Petersburg, people have long parked wherever they wanted in downtown because the threat of a fine was cheaper than some parking garages' fees.

Then, starting in 2007, a series of statewide property tax reform measures forced local governments to come up with new revenue streams.

Increasing St. Petersburg's parking fees, which were historically cheaper than Clearwater's and Tampa's, was in downtown's best interest, Kubicki said. "The goal is to be self-sufficient," he said.

He said the city has received few complaints.

One of those was from Seminole resident Jim Cherry.

Last month, Cherry rounded up nine of his relatives and friends, circled the waterfront until he found parking and gamely dropped $400 on barbecue and booze during his annual trek to the Ribfest at Vinoy Park.

When he returned to his car, an overtime parking ticket was waiting. "It just ruined the night," said Cherry, 50. The fine jumped to $40 when Cherry forgot to pay within 15 days. Fed up, he fired off an e-mail to City Hall. "While most cities would rejoice to have thousands of people spending money in their city, St. Pete hands out parking tickets," he wrote. "I will never step foot in your city again for an event."

Times staff writer Janet Zink contributed to this report. Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or

Parking fines in Tampa Bay


St. Petersburg




St. Pete Beach



Quarter fees and parking fines more than pocket change for St. Petersburg 12/13/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 22, 2008 1:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Observations from a liberal, gay, Latino, feminist Florida House freshman


    State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando,  rocked the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus dinner at Tallahassee's Hotel Duval Satursday night with his unabashedly liberal and passionate take on the myriad issues he said are key to LGBTQ Floridians. Among them: Access to guns, Reproductive rights, home …

    Carlos G. Smith
  2. Delta Sigma Theta honors outgoing national president

    Human Interest

    During her four years as national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Paulette Walker said she always focused on the comma between "Sorority" and "Inc."

    Paulette Walker, the former director of undergraduate programs and internship in the College of Education at the University of South Florida, will be honored on Saturday for her leadership in the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
  3. 10 sailors missing, 5 hurt in collision of USS John S. McCain

    SEOUL —Ten U.S. Navy sailors are missing and five have been injured after the USS John S. McCain destroyer collided with an oil tanker near Singapore early Monday morning.

    In this Jan. 22, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain patrols in the South China Sea while supporting security efforts in the region. The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship on Monday, Aug. 21, in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca. Ten sailors were missing, and five were injured, the Navy said. [James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP]
  4. Pasco County Fire Rescue fighting a two-alarm fire started by an explosion


    Two houses are on fire and one victim has been critically burned and taken to a trauma center following an explosion at a home at 8652 Velvet Dr, in Port Richey.

  5. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.