By the beginning of the fall semester, students who use parking in downtown Fayetteville should begin to see changes to lighting around parking lots near Dickson Street, clarified signage and possibly changes to parking costs.
In their meeting March 6, the Fayetteville City Council approved phase one of the Fayetteville Parking Master Plan, which includes suggestions that city officials plan to implement between April 2018 and December 2019, according to the plan.
One of the main suggestions from the plan is to improve sidewalks and street lighting to make people feel safer using parking lots that are a few blocks away from Dickson Street, said Jason Schrieber, project manager for the Fayetteville Parking Master Plan and principal for Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates.
Transportation planning firm Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates created the plan based on a study of parking in Fayetteville’s downtown business and entertainment district between spring 2016 and spring 2018, Schrieber said.
The Fayetteville entertainment district is Dickson Street and surrounding areas, and the downtown business direct is the Fayetteville Historic Square and surrounding areas, according to the City of Fayetteville website.
One of the study’s main findings is that people are less likely to use parking lots on the outskirts of the entertainment district, like those on Meadow Street and Church Avenue, even if these lots are less than a half mile away from Dickson Street, said Fayetteville Parking Manager Justin Clay.
Clay thinks that adding more crosswalks and lighting will make people more willing to use these lots and walk to their destinations because they will feel safer, he said. City officials are considering construction on the Meadow Street sidewalk and other lighting and crosswalk improvements to implement later this year.
Sophomore Kamryn Floyd thinks that poor lighting is a big part of why people choose not to park in spots further from Dickson Street, she said.
“I won’t park in poorly lit areas because bad things can happen,” Floyd said.
Freshman Madison Stamps would not feel safe walking alone from a parking spot farther from Dickson Street because of how dark it is, she said.
Stamps and her friends walk in groups whenever they must park in distant spots because something bad could happen, she said.
Fayetteville resident Katherine Galloway lives on Dickson Street and spoke at the city council meeting.
Galloway often sees available parking but worries about the safety of walking to spots farther from the center of the entertainment district at night, she said.
Galloway will be happy to see more lighting near the remote parking lots in the entertainment district to make people feel safer, she said.
Clay also wants more of the Wayfinding signs in Northwest Arkansas but plans to replace other text-heavy signs with more pictorial and directional signs, he said. Wayfinding signs are the blue signs that point to notable destinations in the area such as the Clinton House Museum and the UofA.
The plan recommends making the cost of parking based more directly on demand and expand the Pay-by-Phone system to the downtown business district.
A stakeholder group will discuss possible changes to parking prices this spring, according to the plan.
If officials implement the suggested price changes parking in the evenings on Dickson Street and the center of the entertainment district would be between $1.50 and $2 per hour, while parking farther away from Dickson Street will be less expensive or possibly free for remote lots near School Avenue and Spring Street, according to the plan.
Schrieber thinks that if the lesser-used parking lots on the outskirts of downtown Fayetteville were made free parking, more people would be inclined to use those lots, freeing up space near the center of the entertainment district, he said.
Senior Kelyn Baker thinks that the pricing changes will do more to incentivize people to park in the distant lots than any changes to lighting and crosswalks, he said.
Baker is willing to walk a little farther if he gets free parking and thinks that other students would be too, he said.
The plan does not recommend creating new parking because there are parking lots within a short walk of Dickson Street already readily available, even on busy weekend nights, Schrieber said at the meeting.