Alleviating Parking Problems in Fayetteville AR

Alleviating Parking Problems in the Fayetteville AR

Entertainment District ~ Think “Outside the Box”

© 2013 – Kirby Sanders

It comes as no news to anyone that the parking situation on Dickson Street has become untenable. As a result, many locals avoid Dickson Street altogether, resulting in a loss of steady and reliable non-tourist traffic and income for businesses on the street – not to mention lost Hotel and Restaurant Tax revenue for the city. Building a new parking deck behind the Walton Arts Center (WAC) may help alleviate the situation somewhat, but still leaves our elderly and mobility-restricted without reliable nearby access to venues and programs they might otherwise wish to attend – and may not create enough new parking to make much of a dent in the problem. It may prove to be nothing more than a very expensive “band-aid” if we consider potential future growth.

While the parking situation in the Dickson Street area remains a tangle, downtown parking about a mile away from the heart of The Street is often empty on evenings when parking near Dickson is impossible. Perhaps it is time to “think outside the box” in order to alleviate two situations at once.

Perhaps we might re-visit and re-institute the old Fayetteville trolleys as what many urban areas have found to be a tried and true “Park and Ride” solution.

Lets say we were to run handicapped-accessible trolleys maybe every 30 minutes from Downtown (DT) near the parking lot just north of City Hall to the Walton Arts Center (WAC)  — if nothing else on weekends and during special events. Maybe we even restrict it to evenings — first run out of Downtown 5:30 p.m. and the last run back to Downtown at midnight. Perhaps using a route along Center to West and back again to keep the trolleys on-schedule and out of College Avenue and Dickson Street traffic? Maybe charge a buck to $2.50 a head each way for a ride on the trolley to defray operational expenses. I think a lot of people would use it rather than avoiding Dickson all together and missing some good events because of the parking wrangle. For an extra two to five bucks on a night on the town, I’d use it. I am one who sometimes has problems walking all the way from DT parking to WAC at Dickson Street and West Avenue — and refuse to deal with the chaos of trying to park around Dickson. On the now rare occasion when I go to Dickson Street, I take a cab from and to the house. $10 roundtrip for a 1.5 mile roundtrip

The trolley buses don’t necessarily have to be anything as “cute” as the old trolleys were (although that would be nice). Just reliable transportation to help fill vacant lots Downtown and help clear some in the Dickson area proper.

Probably it would require two buses to keep on schedule. Perhaps position one at Downtown City Hall and one at WAC at 5:00 p.m. for first departures . The buses trade places and return to original positions at 5:30 p.m. Same same twice per hour –- on the 30 and the top of each hour. The trolleys would pass one another somewhere along Center Street. The first few WAC to DT departures might run empty, but logistically one bus probably could not keep on schedule. It is approx 4 minutes each direction (8 minutes round trip). Add say another four minutes each to disembark  and re-board at each location and that is 12 minutes out of a 30 minute block of time. That leaves 9 minutes sitting at each stop if there is one trolley bus only. Maybe one trolley could do the trick but that might be pushing it on peak evenings. Perhaps we might try it with one bus Monday – Thursday and two on Friday – Saturday (no service on Sundays). Two on Thursday – Saturday during “Special events” such as Bikes Blues, etc? Perhaps we test-run with two buses Thursday through Saturday only? Is it possible that an initial test run of two to five years’ duration might be contracted to Ozark Regional Transit rather than the city buying and operating buses for an untested plan?

Having two buses on the schedule could also allow passengers some shelter from winter / inclement weather, as they could board whenever they arrived at either stop rather than waiting outside in the elements. Possibly we use electric or propane / LNG buses to cut cost of operations. Eventually equip the trolleys with separate generator powered AC and heat so the trolleys would not have to run their motors to keep passengers comfy cool or warm whilst sitting at stops? That would save on wear and tear / maintenance of motors as well as fuel costs. Even with only one trolley operating, that is 18 minutes out of every hour wherein it would not be necessary to burn fuel with a bus sitting with the motor at idle.

Funding? Chip a tiny percent from existing parking revenues to help fund the project. Maybe a bit from Hotel and Restaurant taxes? Perhaps the Visitors and Convention Council could give a wee touch to the town rather than helping to fund more for an already wealthy “gown”. It is difficult to put visitors’ “heads in beds” or “tax the burgers” if there isn’t anywhere for the visitors to park their cars when they get here.

There are solutions possible if we, as a community – town and gown, consider creative approaches to mutual. As songwriter Billy Hill wrote in his 1930s tune Glory of Love, “You’ve got to give a little, take a little — and let your poor heart break a little. That’s the story of, that’s the glory of love.”

And who knows – people might even enjoy some additional fun and fellowship on the Park and Ride trolleys as they begin and end their forays out on the town! It might also help feed some downtown businesses. If the restaurants on Dickson are too crowded on a given evening, hop the trolley and have a meal downtown! A truly mutual “Downtown-Dickson” approach. Imagine that!

This is not an “either or” proposition. Build the new parking deck and consider a DT to WAC “Park and Ride”. This is a sincere suggestion that perhaps we should consider “walking and chewing gum at the same time”.  Think about it.

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