By Siobhan Callahan
Location, location, location. According to downtown visitors, parking spaces on the street directly in front of businesses fill up quickly, while parking garages remain nearly empty.
The amount of parking in downtown Winston-Salem is more than sufficient, but it may not be the type of parking visitors to downtown may be looking for, according to people who park downtown. Visitors circle the streets, rather than park in the available garages.
“Parking here is tremendously better than other cities, but the parking decks are definitely not utilized enough,” says Jonathan Dills, an attorney with an office on North Cherry Street.
Despite the parking garage less than a block away from Dills’ law office, clients complain when they visit the office that there is not enough parking, Dill said. They would much rather park on the street than in the availed parking decks. Accustomed to pulling directly in front of businesses in the many shopping centers of Winston-Salem, the clients get frustrated when there is not a spot available on the street in front of the office, he said.
Others say that they too avoid parking garages. Carlyle Yealy, Wake Forest University senior, said she feels uncomfortable using parking decks. When Yealy goes downtown to meet friends at one of the bars or to go out to dinner, she drives in circles until she locates parking on the street because she finds the parking decks creepy and unsafe.
“Honestly I would never even consider parking in the garages if I were by myself,” Carlyle said. “I just don’t feel safe and really get creeped out, especially if it’s night time.”
In spite of some people’s reluctance to use parking decks, last month the Winston-Salem City Council approved a $4 million request to build a parking deck, as well as make other improvements in the downtown research park, Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.
Not only is the city making improvements to create more parking, but the city is also taking actions to make street parking more effective, according to Rodd Ring, Winston-Salem’s Transportation Operations Manager. Within the last two years, pay stations, which allow someone to use cash, credit or coins, began replacing single pay meters, which only accept coins. Twelve pay stations have been implemented, mainly located east of Main Street.
Ring said that there’s no clear consensus among downtown visitors on parking. There is ample parking downtown between the garages and street spaces. It just may not be directly in front of where a person is going.
“It’s like when you go to the mall you don’t necessarily find a spot right in front of the store you are looking to go to,” Ring says, “but there is an abundance of parking within a block or so of where you want to go.”
Rodney Smith, employee of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, said he finds there is plenty of parking downtown. During the week, Smith parks in one of the R.J. Reynolds company lots. But on the weekends when he meets friends downtown at bars or restaurants, he explained they never have trouble finding parking whether it is on the street or in the parking decks.
“Parking has never been an issue,” Smith says. “When we come down on the weekends with a group, we usually use the parking decks.”
Downtown resident Dave Brewer does not worry about street parking or using the available parking decks. Living in the Nissen Building Apartments on West Fourth Street, Brewer walks anywhere he needs to go downtown, including to work at R.J. Reynolds everyday. He always leaves his car parked in the garage in his apartment building.
“I don’t really drive anywhere,” Brewer said, “I just walk so I rarely move my car from the parking deck in my building.”