Oxford, Miss. (TLV) – The parking meters on the Downtown Oxford Square have been a talking point for most Oxford residents since going live September 2nd. With concerns ranging from initial costs and where the money is going, to the impact the meters will have on local businesses, many citizens, students, and tourists have been trying to answer the question whether or not the parking meters will be the long term answer to Oxford’s parking troubles.
According to an email sent by Ward 1 Alderman, Jay Hughes, “The first day was a huge success in that more spaces were available for shoppers and visitors, and it generated over $1,500 in revenue. There are no easy answers—but this is a step in the right direction.”
The premium, curbside parking spots located along the main roads, Van Buren Ave., South 11th St., South Lamar Blvd., Jackson Ave., and North Lamar Blvd., will be metered and enforced from 10am to 10pm, Monday through Saturday, with Sundays, Holidays, and Game Day Saturdays being the only exceptions. For Game Day Saturdays, all premium spots will be restricted to a three-hour time limit.
The rate for parking is $1 per hour but smaller amounts of time can be purchased with coins; you can purchase 15 minutes for a quarter, six minutes for a dime and three minutes for a nickel, for those occasions you’re just making a quick run or picking up your favorite take-out meal. Any time bought with a debit or credit card will be assessed a $0.25 processing fee.
While some locals see the parking meters as an inconvenience or unnecessary, others feel that the meters have improved the parking situation on the Square. “I have had a lot of customers come in and say that they loved that they were able to park, they didn’t mind paying a dollar to park, and they liked being able to find a spot so I am pleasantly surprised,” Tate Moore, owner of Square Pizza, said.
The fees for overtime tickets are $10 for the first and second offense, $25 for the third, and become $50 after the fourth or more, said Director of Parking for the City of Oxford, Matt Davis. The costs of overtime tickets on Game Days are steeper fines. Tickets will be $50 for the first offense, $75 for the second, and $100 if it is your third offense or more.
“Cars may be booted after: three or more convictions within any 12-month period and one of the fines remains unpaid after a period of more than 60 days; four or more convictions for overtime parking, two loading zone convictions, or one handicapped parking conviction within any 12 month period; or any vehicle blocking sidewalks, fire hydrants, or fire lanes may be subject to immediate towing or immobilization,” said Davis. “The boot removal fee is $75. If a boot remains on the vehicle for more than 24 hours without the fines being paid, the vehicle will be towed away.”
According to Davis, the parking meters serve two purposes, to manage parking spaces around the Square and to fund the construction of a parking structure.
“The City explored many options dealing with the management of parking for the past couple of years,” said Davis. “This solution was not very adequate so the City looked into different ways to implement paid parking. One option was for single space meters and the other was for parking kiosks. The parking meters were the best option after viewing other similar towns that shared our parking problem.”
With concerns that the parking meters could potentially hurt the local businesses or cause people to shy away from shopping on the Square, the city has taken steps to ensure that the meters will have an overall positive impact. These steps include trying to match the local architecture so the meters would not stand out, and making the technology user-friendly and appealing to both the younger and older generations, Davis said.
“Saturday was an away ballgame and we had a great day. It was busy and people were out on the Square and were parking in the free parking spots and the meters,” Manager of Neilson’s, Amanda Lewis Hyneman, said.
The free parking lots are located on the outskirts of the Square for those who don’t want to pay to park. Also, some businesses, such as Neilson’s, offer local delivery or are willing to bring your items to you in your car.
While the overall feedback for the parking meters seems to be somewhat divided with a slight lean to the positive side, there are still some issues to be resolved.
“I’ve gotten more positive feedback about it than I thought I would get. It’s a pain in the ass for employees to park, because there is still no parking for employees… But for patrons wanting to come up on the Square, I think it’s been nothing but positive,” Moore said.
There have been no immediate consequences from the parking meters at this time, Davis said; however, the longterm plan is to construct a parking garage behind City Hall in the near future.
“There is a parking fund that was started by the city to where all the revenue goes. Every bit of the revenue stays in that account and pays for the budget of the parking division and pays for the meters and any upcoming project related to parking. Any other projects would consist of upgrades to the downtown area (improvement of sidewalks, lighting, and security). The main focus of the revenue is to pay for the meters and start to pay for the garage,” Davis said.
The yearly budget for the Parking Division is around $237,000 per year, Davis said. The expected estimates of revenue from the parking meters is roughly between $400,000 – $500,000 per year. Also, tickets were never included in this revenue, Davis said.
Though some have criticized the parking meters and others have praised them, only time will tell the true story. Scott Caradine, owner of Proud Larry’s, has noticed one change on the Square since the meters have been put into effect.
“It seems that one does not have to spend half their lunch break looking for parking, as long as they bring along a couple of quarters. I think folks appear a little intimidated by the meters, but they are really simple to use, and for a little change, parking is available now, near your favorite lunch, banking, or retail shop,” Caradine said.