Oxford studies Athens, Fayetteville parking

Oxford StockBy Errol Castens

Daily Journal

OXFORD – Athens, Ga., and Fayetteville, Ark., might offer Oxford leaders some insights for managing downtown parking.

Matt Davis of Oxford’s public works department recently visited both cities to see how their successes might apply to Oxford’s stated intent to move forward with paid premium parking.

“We picked these two places because of their proximity to us and because they’re both SEC towns,” Davis said, noting that Athens and Fayetteville are considerably larger than Oxford.

Athens charges 75 cents per hour for on-street parking (two-hour limit) and the 800 spaces in its two downtown parking garages (unlimited time). It also rents surface lot spaces for downtown employees for $30 per month. Payments are through single-space meters, electronic kiosks that serve a few dozen spaces each and pay-and-display stations that issue one-time-use dashboard permits.

Davis said the dashboard permit system often creates problems for enforcers when drivers pile one on top of another and that the loss of a cellular modem disables an entire station, causing confusion for drivers.

Fayetteville’s parking spaces include 544 metered, 1,129 pay station, 55 motorcycle, 731 surface lot and 348 parking garage. It charges 25 cents per hour near the square; on-square parking is free but limited to two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. Entertainment district charges are 50 cents per hour afternoons and $1 per hour at night (until 2 a.m.).

Both cities have applications that allow drivers to pay for parking by smartphone.

Mayor Pat Patterson told parking commissioners Friday he thinks the city will spend up to $500,000 in 2013-14 to implement paid parking both as a management tool and to raise funds for a parking garage.

While the Downtown Parking Commission has recommended a paid parking system for at least two years, the Oxford Board of Aldermen only began serious discussion of paid storefront parking after Fiscal Year 2012-13 fine collections proved to be a small fraction of projections by Standard Parking, which began managing the city’s parking in October 2012.

“There are going to be some tough decisions about paid parking,” Patterson told parking commissioners.

Later he added, “As we move toward the possibility of paid premium parking, all management options are on the table.”