By Jesse Wood
Parking meters in downtown Boone went live in March, and after a full month of meters throughout the entire downtown, High Country Press spoke to 10 business owners for their thoughts on how metered parking is being received.
The opinion from business owners were mixed.
Most owners interviewed want to see validation stickers return. With the installation of meters in downtown, the Town of Boone did away with the validation sticker program, which ended today, May 1.
“I like the idea of someone shopping with me [not worrying] about going out and throwing a quarter in. I like to be able to give them a sticker, and say, ‘Just stick we me. If you get a parking ticket, we can take care of it.’ I can’t do that anymore. That’s probably the biggest hassle for me,” Karen Snead, owner of Dancing Moon, said.
The reason folks want validation stickers back is because customers are parking on King Street, which only has a one-hour limit on its meters. As nearly every owner said, it’s tough to shop at multiple restaurants and grab a bite to eat before the meter expires.
Elizabeth Hempfling, owner of The Wedding Resource Center, repeated a story of someone in the middle of getting her hair done at a downtown salon and having to jump out of their seat with color still in her hair to go feed the meter.
“I think that’s been the big fight and struggle for folks coming to downtown, taking into consideration that the signage is really poor and people parking aren’t educated really well [on what’s available at the various lots],” Hempfling said.
Before metered parking, the time limit was still one hour, but sometimes that was extended 10 to 20 minutes as McLaurin Parking staff walked throughout the downtown district chalking tires.
Chris Staggs, owner of Capone’s Pizza, said he has no problem with metered parking but also felt the one-hour limit was too short – especially if McLaurin Parking is “predatorial” with waiting for the meters to hit zero before handing out a ticket.
“They are quick to walk by and wait [until the time limit expires],” Staggs said. “There is no slack, but I guess that’s there job.”
But what happens if the one-hour limit on King Street is extended. Well, college students would be parking in those spots again.
“If we make it more than an hour, then the college students will use it more and we are right back where we started,” Bob Meier, owner of Doe Ridge Pottery and a member of the Downtown Boone Development Association, which has studied the parking situation for several years now.
While Meier thinks metered parking is a wonderful idea, he’s mentioned that the meter program does need some tweaking. In particular, he said that when there is time left on a meter from a motorist who left early, the next person that attempts to park in the spot can’t add money to the meter. Either the new driver has to wait until the time expires or return at the time of expiration to avoid a ticket.
There are more options aside from one-hour parking in downtown that visitors to the downtown area might not be aware of. The Queen Street lot features 50 cent parking for up to three hours at a time. While the Queen Street lot is a longer walk to the shops on King Street, it’s still less distance than the walk shoppers at Walmart endure on a busy shopping day – as one person downtown said.
Starting in June, more extended options will be available. The Depot Street and Town Hall lots will have pay stations, where folks can park for extended periods of time.
“Once these pay stations are installed, visitors to downtown can park all day for a $1 an hour,” Virginia Falck, downtown coordinator for the Town of Boone, said. “If someone would like shop and eat in downtown, their best parking option would be one of the long-term parking areas.”
Falck said that people can add time to meters with coins or a credit or debit card – the latter of which would cost an extra $1 because of credit card fees.
“For example, if there is 15 minutes left on a parking meters, a person can add up to an hour with coins. So if you wanted to add $.75 to make your 15 minutes an hour you would add three quarters. If you need an extra 15 minutes to make your meter have 30 minutes of time remaining you could add a quarter.
If you would like to add time to a meter with your credit or debit card that has, for example, 30 minutes left, you can but it will be $1. Every credit card transaction is $1 regardless how much time is left. If you have 45 minutes left on the meters and want to round that up to an hour, it is a $1. If you have 6 minutes left and you want to push the time up to an hour, it is a $1.”
Falck added that after a couple months of gathering data generated by the smart meters, town staff will review the data and associated statistics to examine the possibility of adjusting time limits in particular zones of downtown.
For John Cooper, owner of Mast General Store, he thinks the metered parking program is working based on the fact that he can find parking spaces when he comes downtown.
“I think it’s something you just have to get used to, and I think it’s probably going to make downtown a better place to visit,” Cooper said.
The Town of Boone has website devoted to educating the public on the meter program. The website features frequently asked questions, survey, video and explanation of how the meters, which accept both coins and debit/credit cards, work.
Here is “pertinent” information from the Downtown Boone Development Association on the metered-parking program:
- On-street parking on King, Depot, and Howard streets will be $1 per hour Monday – Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- One hour parking will remain in effect Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and two hour parking will remain in effect on Saturdays 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- The Queen Street meters will remain $.50 per hour up for up to three hours Monday – Saturday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
- There is no parking enforcement on Sundays.
- The new smart meters will accept coins, credit and debit cards.
- Visitors may go back and feed the smart meter before or as their time expires, and they will not
- be required to move their vehicle to a new parking space.
- Parking validations will no longer be accepted.
“I think it’s a little soon. I am really waiting for feedback from our customers. So far I haven’t heard very many complaints, so that’s what matters more to me is the customer’s opinion … I am reserving my opinion until more people tell me if they like it or don’t.”
Wanda Corriher, owner of Mountaineer Mania
The hour limit is what is hurting us. Otherwise I know they have to do something. Obviously the best solution would be a parking deck. I realize they have to have some sort of controls. If they take away these limits, I would be happy with it. They are too concerned about the college kids using all the parking, but the college kids are all of my customers … One hour, you can’t much have lunch for that.”
“I see more empty spaces than I used to, and I don’t like that. I much rather have parking meters be full all the time and people have to hunt for other parking and at least they get why versus. People come in here and complain a lot about the one-hour limit, and it’s not fair to us why we have to explain to customers the whole parking thing. It’s hard enough selling used clothes.”
Anna Roseman, owner of Anna Banana’s
“I don’t have a problem with metered parking. The problem is the hour is just too short. It needs to be two hours. Everything else, other than that, is OK. I do think McLaurin [Parking] is a little predatorial. They are quick to walk by and wait [until the time limit expires]. There is no slack, but I guess that’s there job.”
“The hour is too short, and on top of that we can’t validate, and it just pisses off our customers. It makes them so angry because it’s such a short time.”
Chris Staggs, owner of Capone’s Pizza and Bar
“It can cause some issues for us, mainly because with parking some people are happy at all, and I’ve known people who say they aren’t coming downtown any more, and we’ll definitely feel that, but everybody resists change. It’s just a human nature thing. You know, everybody is like, ‘We need meters. We need meters.’ We get meters. ‘We don’t want meters.’”
Muffy Freeman, staff at Under the Sun Consignment and Tanning
“I am not against the parking meters, per se. I wish they would keep validation stickers for people that do get tickets for running five minutes over. If someone is in here with color on their hair and we run five minutes over, and they have to run out here and have 12 dollars tacked on, I think business owners should be able to validate parking tickets for at least one hour. That gives us a little bit of a leeway. I also think it’s imperative that we use the monies derived from this to go into the downtown area, since we are having to deal with the mess. But what I understand is the money goes right into the whole of the general fund. It doesn’t do us any good really. And I am all for anything that can be done in the downtown area.
“Parking meters have alleviated the students parking here, it hasn’t impacted me as much since I do have my own parking lot over here … but if we could use the monies in the downtown area, we only have form what I understand 73 long term parking spaces. 73 is not a lot when you divide by all the businesses in the downtown area.
“I think we are getting overtaxed. This is a form of tax for our clients. $1 pre hour is a lot I think. If it was 50 cents, that would be one thing.”
John Mena, owner of Haircut 101
“I do and I don’t. I keep forgetting to get quarters. Once I get quarters in my car, I won’t be as pissed off about it, you know. It took me a couple weeks to remember I was bringing in extra quarters for the store. So, one of the hassles for me as a business person is the realization, ‘Do we have a change machine on the street for people to get change?’ [That was] the first thing that entered my mind. I started sending them to City Hall after a while when people were just coming in for change and not shopping with me. I am like, ‘City Hall needs to know we have a problem.’”
“I see the need for [meter parking]. It’s clear to people. I don’t’ think it is as clear before and people were getting tickets. It was such a hassle before; people were getting tickets and didn’t’ know they could get tickets. It is just one of those things in a college towns, we have to do something. It’s been a hassle because it’s something new. I think once we jump through the hoop and everything … it’s just progress.
“The thing that bums me is we can’t use validation stickers any more. I like the idea of someone shopping with me [not worrying] about going out and throwing a quarter in. I like to be able to give them a sticker, and say, ‘Just stick we me. If you get a parking ticket, we can take care of it.’ I can’t do that anymore. That’s probably the biggest hassle for me. I don’t’ have anyway to take care of parking ticket for customers. I guess I can pay for it but that’s ridiculous. I can’t afford that.”
Karen Snead, owner of Dancing Moon
“I hate [metered parking]. I hate the fact that the Town of Boone has made this road a one-way thing. Not one single person from the Town of Boone that I am aware of has asked any business what they wanted here. I don’t’ know what they are trying to do. They are trying to run me out of business. I would like to move out of downtown now [because of] metered parking and all of it. A lot of my customers find it difficult to come down here, and I’ve had a lot of customers complain about metered parking. I love being downtown, but I don’t think any of our leaders in our community have any idea of what business owners want. I think they are out of touch with the needs of business people … It’s just frustrating.”
Mike Boone, owner of Magic Cycles
It’s definitely something that’s been really frustrating for us as a business owner in downtown for the type of business we own. It’s more consulting based and that’s caused a lot of frustration in the sense that the time limit is only one hour on meters. I think that’s been the big fight and struggle for folks coming to downtown, taking into consideration that the signage is really poor and [people parking] aren’t educated really well [on what’s available around downtown at the various lots]
“It’s making people not to want to come to downtown much. Even dining along, it’s tough enough to eat lunch in under an hour. [I would like to see] at least two hours or extending validation stickers across the board for our community downtown … We have to get to the point of a happy medium where ASU students are not taking advantage of the downtown parking situation and local business patrons aren’t suffering or as one person said, punished.”
Elizabeth Hempfling, owner of The Wedding Resource Center
“I think it’s working. You can find parking places downtown, and that’s a good thing.”
“It will take people a while to get used to it … I think it’s something you just have to get used to, and I think it’s probably going to make downtown a better place to visit.”
John Cooper, owner of The Mast General Store
I think it’s a wonderful idea, but I must be in the minority. I am on the board for the DBDA. Here’s what I think: All we heard for the last five years, ‘We hate our parking system, people from out of town don’t like it. Our customers from downtown don’t like it. It’s confusing. They can’t figure out what to do. They go home with ticket and write us back and call us and say they’ll never come back to Boone and shop.’ Then the other thing, ‘There is never any parking downtown.’ The reason we couldn’t’ find a place to park is we were trying to be nice to everybody right, and you couldn’t find a place to park downtown because the first hour is free, and the students were using all the parking that was for businesses. We felt like we investigated all possible options, and said look, anybody come here from anywhere in the U.S. who has ever driven to a city anywhere in the U.S. understands parking meters. It’s very democratic. Everybody pays the same a mount; it doesn’t mater if you are driving a Rolls Royce or a Volkswagen Golf, you pay and that’s all there is to it…
“The big issues so far is it’s new, it’s different and it’s digital.”
“If we make it more than an hour, then the college students will use it more and we are right back where we stared.”
Editor’s Note: Meier added that the system does need some tweaking. He noted that one of the legitimate complaints was that when there is time left on a meter from a parker who left early, the next person that attempts to park in the spot can’t add money to the meter. Either they have to wait until the time expires or come back at the time of expiration to avoid a ticket. He also acknowledged that the students might abuse this system when the opportunity arises, but it won’t be no where near the scale as before.
Bob Meier, owner of Doe Ridge Pottery / DBDA Board Member