Council members question cost, popularity of game-day parking plan
It's halftime of the football parking plan for the town of Boone, and town council members want to continue pushing for the goal line.
With three Appalachian State University home games finished and three more on the schedule, the council took a look at costs and benefits of the plan Thursday. Under the plan, the town rents spaces in town-owned lots for $15, while using contracted parking ambassadors to preserve parking spaces for customers of downtown businesses.
Council member Jamie Leigh said she'd talked with downtown merchants about the proposed parking plans used during Appalachian State University football games. Leigh said she didn't think even half of the merchants were happy with it.
Steve McLaurin, director of McLaurin Parking that oversees the plan, said game attendees had not objected to being directed to paid parking spots. He said the plan had been tweaked during each of the three game days, and said a large number of business employees had been parking on the streets. He said once the game started, there "wasn't as much space as we would like due to the number of employees."
Leigh said she was also concerned because the plan was supposed to be revenue neutral, and council member Janet Pepin said, "I thought the cost was kind of high, because I was comparing it to the cost of paying overtime to a couple of town cops."
Town manager Greg Young said he was disappointed in the revenue generated. McLaurin said few vehicles have used the Horn in the West lot and that people didn't mind paying $15 to use the Queen Street or Town Hall parking lots.
McLaurin said patrons were also being sent to the edges of town, so the plan was accomplishing the goal of preserving spaces closest to the downtown area.
Young said there were also costs that didn't show up in the report, since additional town employees are needed to put up parking signs. Council member Lynne Mason said a number of cars were left downtown overnight, indicating a larger problem with downtown parking. The town has spent nearly $10,000 on the game-day parking plans, earning back about $7,000.
However, the deficit has narrowed with each game as the plan is honed. On Oct. 11, the plan's deficit was $250 and the total expense was $2,695.
The plan relies on signs to help ease traffic and parking concerns, and those signs must be placed on Friday evenings. McLaurin also pointed out that some people parked to shop downtown and left their cars while they attended the game, which tied up spaces "for six or seven hours."
McLaurin said there could be cuts that could allow revenues to offset costs. Recommendations include increasing the number of parking signs and reducing the number of street monitors from six to four. While Queen Street parking has generated revenue, only one car used the $10 parking at Horn in the West.
McLaurin recommended ceasing parking operations in the Horn in the West lot unless patterns change. The analysis also called for more attention to employee parking, which apparently took up many of the spaces reserved for customers.
"It should be noted parking space is reserved on Queen Street for employee parking on game days, but little of this space is utilized by the intended motorists," the report said. "It appears many football fans park in customer-marked spaces, visit the businesses downtown before heading to the game. While this complies with the signage, there remains the allowance for vehicles along King Street for six hours or more. Perhaps this is acceptable to the business community in downtown Boone, but if not, consideration of Saturday enforcement is appropriate."
The council by consensus instructed McLaurin and Young to explore ways to continue the game-day parking plan, while cutting costs for the final three games. Young noted ASU could host home playoff games in the postseason as well.