If you are an Oxford resident, and you visit the Square often searching for a parking space, you may or may not be a fan of the parking meters.
About four years ago, when there were no parking meters on the Square, Square business owners and employees arrived early and parked on the Square, leaving few empty spaces for customers. The city attempted several solutions before deciding to install parking meters, realizing that visitors and patrons needed better access to parking.
Tom Sharpe, chairman of the Oxford Parking Commission, said the city of Oxford has fought the parking problem over the past few years. “The first thing we were trying to do to help with the problem of employees parking on the streets around the Square was to put a two-hour limit on free parking,” Sharpe said.
That didn’t solve the problem because people who worked around the Square still parked on the streets and moved their vehicles every two hours to avoid fines.
“The next thing the Oxford Parking Commission did was to hire a company who managed parking, and the plan was to use the ticket revenue to cover the costs of services provided by the company,” he said.
The cost of services was about $20,000 a month or $250,000 a year. However, the ticket revenue was not even close to cover the services of the company, so city leaders needed to come up with another solution.
Parking meters were the answer. The planning phase took about one year for Oxford to bring the parking meters to the Square.
“About three years ago, the city of Oxford installed parking meters around the Square,” Sharpe said. “The first couple of weeks, Square employees complained about having to park farther away, or paying $8 a day for a parking spot on the street, but it solved their problems immediately.”
Square employees quickly noticed an increase in customers, so employees moved to the free parking lots off the main streets.
Matt Davis, director of parking who works at the Oxford Police Department in the Parking Division, said the meters have helped business.
“The meters have been very successful in creating more parking options for those coming downtown, and it has also started a special parking fund that is used to improve the parking infrastructure, as well as start the conversation of constructing a new parking garage,” Davis said. “The main purpose behind the meters was to create more parking and allow more users to come to the Square.”
The monthly cost of a parking meter is around $1,000 with extra monthly connection fees.
Now, the off-street lots are at capacity and more spaces are needed. So, the city of Oxford came up with another solution, which will be a parking garage behind Uptown Coffee shop. The city hopes this will solve the problem.
“Currently, the parking lot behind Uptown Coffee has 234 spaces of free parking,” Sharpe said. “The new parking garage will have 402 spaces with 90 spaces around the garage. So, it will almost double the current parking spots of that parking lot.”
The 90 spaces around the garage will remain free. The parking lot under the water tower will remain free. The parking lot around the courthouse will remain free, as will the one behind the county building. This means there will be about 250 free spots around the Square.
The Oxford Board of Alderman approved that the rate for parking in the garage will be $.50 an hour. Other parking spaces behind City Grocery, Oxford City Hall, and the courthouse will be $.75 an hour. On-street parking will remain at a $1.25 an hour rate.
Even though parking meters are very successful around the Square, Oxford is not planning on adding additional parking meters outside the Square anytime soon.