FAYETTEVILLE — It was probably inevitable that if the first day of a new paid public parking program falls on the same day as the mayor's town hall meeting, he might receive some questions -- and even a few concerns.
Josh Nowell, an employee in the Dickson Street entertainment district, said he saw the newly-gated Walton Arts Center parking lot sit nearly empty all day Monday. And, if the program comes in low on expected revenue, would the city consider discontinuing it, Nowell asked.
For an interactive map of Dickson Street and downtown parking, including locations, rates and hours, go to http://www.nwaonline.com/faypark/
"We'll review everything after 90 days," said Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan. That three-month review has been his and the city staff's constant refrain throughout the implementation process. However, that review should be viewed as a point to tweak the program, not trash it, city officials said.
"You won't see a short-term decision made because it takes a long time to see trends," said Don Marr, Fayetteville chief of staff, who compared the opening days of the new parking plan with the indoor smoking ban from several years ago. There's an initial "rebellion" period where customers stay home in a sort of retaliation. But those periods tend last about 90 days, Marr said.
The Walton Arts Center parking lot as well as other public parking lots around the arts center transitioned to pay-as-you-stay gated lots on Monday. The daytime fee is 50 cents per hour, and $1 per hour after 5 p.m. The large public lot behind the Common Grounds restaurant also became a pay lot on Monday. To park on streets like Dickson and Spring will requirement payment starting Wednesday, said Terry Gulley, Fayetteville transportation services director.
"We're trying to do a lot of education," Gulley told the crowd of about 20 residents and an equal number of Boys Scouts at Monday's town hall meeting. "We have a lot of parking personnel in the area who are trying to provide a good experience as a first experience."
What worries workers like Nowell is whether businesses can wait through the so-called adjustment period while Dickson Street becomes a ghost town, even if it's short-lived.
"The mayor said it, we're in the worst recession since the Great Depression, and now we're going to charge people an extra 50 cents to get a burger," Nowell said, noting the 50 cents per hour parking fees.
"I just don't feel like he's been listening to us," Nowell said. "And after a time, when our voices keep falling on deaf ears, we pack up and move our business elsewhere."