3Qs: Ed Urrutia, Oxford parking enforcer

By Errol Castens/Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

After a month of courtesy tickets that simply gave information to drivers about Oxford’s new parking enforcement, the city began “hard” enforcement last week to move long-term parking off-street and leave storefront parking for short-term shoppers and diners. Daily Journal reporter Errol Castens visited with Ed Urrutia, regional manager for Standard Parking, which oversees enforcement of the two-hour limit for on-street parking downtown.

Q: Why is parking management such an issue in Oxford?
A: On-street premium parking space is probably the most valuable real estate in Oxford. You can’t build any more of it, so we have a very fixed inventory of those spaces to take care of visitors and shoppers downtown. The program we’re working with is designed to ensure that short-term parkers park in the on-street spaces, and long-term parkers park in the off-street parking lots.
Another piece of that is an examination of how many spaces do we need. We probably can’t continue to grow the city and build surface parking lots to satisfy short- or long-term demand. We’re probably going to have to build a parking structure very close in that’s user-friendly for more short-term and long-term parkers.

Q: Doesn’t there seem to be a shift already to more open storefront spaces and more competition for the long-term free parking lots?
A: That’s the shift that we expected. I think the amount of long-term parking on the square was even greater than we had perceived. I think everybody was a bit surprised that it was as big a problem as it is, hence the mayor and Board of Aldermen are moving as quickly as possible to increase the supply.
Here on Friday – a busy day – at 12:30, even with all the long-term relocations to the free lots, we still had only 12 empty on-street spaces. It just tells you how large an issue it really was, and it makes you wonder where all those short-term parkers were going before.

Q: What’s the effect on business in downtown?
A: It’s a change for the community, and hopefully the community realizes that at some point, when you see the remarkable growth, you have to deal with issues it creates.
This has become my favorite place to travel to. I just love Oxford – it’s charming, it’s friendly and it’s safe downtown – but with that success come these kinds of problems, and I think the community is coming around to the point of view that if we want to maintain this growing, bright light of a city, then we have to figure out what to do to make it as convenient as possible.
The last thing you want your customers asking is, ‘Do I really want to go down there?’ because there’s a parking problem.