Officials: No easy fix to parking problems

By Errol Castens/Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

OXFORD – Oxford businesspeople say the new downtown parking enforcement is solving some problems but may be creating some others.
The folks behind the still-young parking management effort are asking them to give the process some time.
After years of nominal fines and disregard of Saturday enforcement, Oxford is using Standard Parking to enforce a two-hour limit on streetside parking six days a week between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Greg Sisk of Standard Parking reported recently to the Downtown Parking Commission that the 850 citations issued since enforcement began Nov. 26 are changing drivers’ habits, pushing those who will be staying downtown longer to the free off-street parking lots.
“We’re averaging 50 to 60 vacant spots on the street; of course, school is out,” he said. The city’s lots are averaging 20 to 25 vacancies per hour, he said – not including the 100-plus spaces usually open at the water tower parking lot.
One business manager said recent enforcement efforts have pushed him and his employees to off-street parking.
“What your goals were, you have certainly met, because we were egregious offenders,” he said.
The same businessman complained, however, that off-street lots are often full while spaces on secondary streets go unused.
“Over behind City Grocery is always full. If you leave during the day, you won’t get back in,” he said. “It’s frustrating to see so many open spots on the alleys and so few in the lots.”
Patsy Engelhard, owner of Knit1Oxford, agreed enforcement is indeed pushing people to off-street lots, but added that lots are often full by the time her store opens.
“It seems to me the message we want to send is, ‘Come to the Square; eat; shop; linger,’” she said.
Parking Commission Chairman Jeff Triplette reiterated that it would be easier to manage parking if the Board of Aldermen would authorize paid parking downtown.
“We’re trying to manage a resource that is free and still meet everybody’s needs,” he said. “We’ve been at this a month and a half, and much of that time the students weren’t here.”
Triplette asked business owners and motorists to allow a few more weeks to get a clearer picture.
“We’re asking folks for a little consideration,” he said. “Allow us, but keep telling us, and we’ll try to keep doing better at it.”
errol.castens@journalinc.com