Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer
FAYETTEVILLE — Drivers now have several options to pay for parking in the downtown Fayetteville areas around the square.
Crews this week began replacing about 250 of the decades-old on-street parking meters that serve the area with upgraded “smart” meters capable of accepting multiple payment types, including coins, credit cards and contactless payments and payments through a mobile app.
The changes are part of a plan approved by the City Council in September.
Many of the new on-street meters include sensor technology which allows users to see where empty spots are located using the mobile app. The sensors can also let the city know when someone pulled into a space so that a grace period can be given to people who only plan for a short visit.
“That would let a person pick up a cup of coffee or grab a to-go order without having to pay the parking rate,” said Justin Clay, the city’s parking manager.
As for off-street parking, about 275 meters in the city’s parking lots are set to be removed and replaced with seven pay stations to allow for payment and permitting by license plate.
Clay said pay stations are a more cost-effective solution in the downtown area because a majority of people who park in those lots are permit holders who don’t need to make a payment every time they park their vehicles.
Clay said using the pay-by-plate method would allow for the same grace period options as the on-street sensors. Additionally, pay-by-plate parking would allow a user to prepay for their parking, and to move from one space to another as long as they have an active parking session.
The city’s mobile app provider will also be changing from PayByPhone to ParkMobile to allow for real-time availability so people can see which spots are vacant without having to drive around and search for empty spaces.
The new equipment is expected to cost an extra $60,000 in annual operational costs associated with cellular modem connectivity, credit card transaction fees, sensor technology and reporting software, Clay said. As a result, rates for on-street parking will increase increase to 50 cents an hour from 25 cents, and rates in the parking lots will increase from 15 cents to 25 cents an hour.
The 77 free parking spaces around the square are not be affected by the changes, and parking in the other areas will remain free at night and on the weekends.
The city only recently gained full control of the downtown parking situation.
Up until 2020, three of the most-used parking lots were owned by the Off-Street Parking Development District, an independent group of property owners that was formed in 1976 to obtain land and build parking lots to serve the downtown area at a time when business was struggling due to a lack of parking.
The group used bonds to build infrastructure and made payments on the debt with money it received from parking fees and by charging area property owners a temporary tax. The city purchased one of the group’s lots in the late 1990s to construct the Town Center building, and the group was able to pay off its debt. From then on, the group used its revenues for maintenance and improvements. Once all planned renovations were complete, the group dissolved and transferred its three remaining parking lots to the city. It also agreed to give its remaining revenues to the city on one condition.
Clay said many of the on-street meters have already been replaced, and the plan is to begin removing the off-street meters next week.