Harrisburg biz owners adapt to parking changes

Famous for their juicy, cheesy no-frills hamburgers and South Street treats, The Jackson House has been a state worker staple for more than 30 years.

When lunchtime hits, there was a time when parking was a premium around North Sixth and Boas.

Cory Kegris said ever since Standard Parking installed a new digital meter outside the restaurant, customers are saying “fuhgeddaboutit.”

“There’s definitely not as many cars around here, that’s for sure,” he said. “This whole street used to be lined with cars all up and down this whole street. This street used to be lined with cars.”

Kegris said customers were open-minded to the change until the machine took theirs.

“Two people said [the parking meter] ate their money,” he said.

During the interview, SP+ crews showed up to tend to the troubled meter. Kegris said more than technical difficulties scaring traffic away is the risk of fines.

“My dad ran out of salami and one of the [restaurants] brought salami to him. He pulled right out front here, came in and was in the store for about two or three minutes….came back out and lady was already writing him a ticket,” he said.

In January, Standard Parking jumped the fine amounts from $14 to $30, $50 after if not paid within four days. The change was and still is viewed as “steep” as many people were quick to point out.

When talking about the “old system” under the city-controlled Harrisburg Parking Authority, it was known that enforcement was inconsistent and tickets were random. In essence, many rolled the dice and viewed a $14 ticket as a “shame on me.”

Although most loosely understand Standard Parking is a private company which helped absolve the city from its crushing debt, most are quick to judge the company’s policy.

People’s habits were slow to change unlike SP+ enforcement. Getting a $30 ticket on a lunch break put a bad taste in many mouths.

“If you mess up…you’re out yourself 40 bucks for lunch for a hamburger,” said Kegis.

Downtown businesses have barked for months about the impact to its business, whether they say it publicly. The catch-22 is, if you bring awareness to the problem, people perceive the problem as one restaurant row owner explained.

Look at the signs hung on the door and windows attracting customers to Sunday brunch or happy hours from 7pm to 9pm, all hours when parking is free in Harrisburg. Midtown’s Café 1500, Crawdaddy’s, Note, Midtown Tavern, and Ted’s all in some fashion tout the fact they are located in meter-free areas.

Crawdaddy’s owner told abc27 off camera they were surprised to have a packed house on a Tuesday night. He explained the trend was to be in direct result of the extended hours for downtown meters.

One cigar dealer from Florida said he was nailed with a ticket his first time in Harrisburg. He now understands how the meters work and believes it’s one of the better parking systems he encounters.

Harrisburg’s $30 fine does seem steep when compared to neighboring cities like Lancaster ($10), and York ($20). But, if you check out nearby third-class city Reading, the parking authority there dishes out $35 fines for expired meters.

Take the mid-Atlantic region and its capital cities, Harrisburg fines are the lowest. Albany, New York hand out $35 fines and Annapolis, Maryland will run you $40. New Jersey’s Trenton will set you back $70.

Population is not the ultimate factor either. New York City, with more than 8 million people on one small island will hand out $65 fines. While San Francisco is America’s 14th most populous city, second most ‘densely-populated’ city, they are home to the United States highest expired meter parking fine at $74.

Going back to the East Coast, Annapolis and Atlantic City also have metered parking seven days a week and on most major holidays.

Kegris said there is one thing you can’t get outside of Harrisburg.

“Our food’s pretty good,” he said. “So…I’m not worried about that. People will still come.”

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