Parking's a problem, Oxford residents say

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – At noon, at suppertime or when the bands crank up in the nightspots, you may have to work at finding a parking space downtown.
Mike Martindill, vice president of Timothy Haahs amp& Associates Inc., which is consulting with the city on parking solutions, reminded some two dozen Oxonians on Thursday night that insufficient parking reflects a thriving downtown.
“What you have here is a good problem to have,” he said.
Thursday’s gathering was called to get perspectives from local folks on the issue. Ron Hipp, who has chaired a task force studying the parking situation, said one cause of parking congestion is obvious.
“We have 650 people who work downtown, and there are 700 public parking spaces,” he said.
Participants said downtown advantages include storefront parking, the nearness of off-street parking, a workable transit system, the area’s historical atmosphere and its compactness.
Besides the domination of storefront parking by employees, challenges named most often include residential developments without sufficient parking, cars left on the Square overnight and the continuing growth of the community that will create more need for parking.
Suggestions for enhancing the situation included making a pedestrian mall of the Square, improved signage to off-Square public parking, consistent parking enforcement and extra transit buses during the busiest times of day. Some participants favored shuttling downtown workers from distant lots and constructing public restrooms to boost usage at less-patronized lots.
A parking garage seemed almost a foregone conclusion, but Hipp said the challenge first is to better manage existing parking. Charging for premium spaces could open storefront parking more frequently, he said, while also providing funds toward a garage.
“We didn’t start this process of managed parking to create revenue, but you create revenue as a result,” Hipp said. “The goals are simple: We want to give all of us a fighting chance to get a parking space on the Square.”
Haahs & Associates will study downtown parking again after the fall semester begins at the University of Mississippi before making formal recommendations.
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@journalinc.com.