The city of Fort Worth, Texas, has begun charging for parking near the site of the Cattle Barn Flea Market, a 40-year tradition, in the Will Rogers Coliseum. A report in the Fort Worth Weekly says that the new parking fees are a big problem. However, although attendance is down, market manager Charles Estell says that so far it has hurt foot-traffic more than sales.
“It lost us the tire-kicker, the people who come out there and don’t buy anything anyway. We lost all of them. That wasn’t a big loss,” according to Estell. “We haven’t really got hurt yet. It might happen, but we’re holding on, kind of by our teeth.”
The city’s decision affected two lots, one nearby, where the charge is $5 to park, and one across the street, which costs $3. The Cattle Barn charges vendors $31 per weekend for a space.
“The city built a $27 million parking garage and they’re going to pay for it out of this parking,” says Estell, who is somewhat sympathetic. “Cities are hurting. They need money, The only way they can get money is to raise taxes, which they are reluctant to do, or to create fees. And I understand that.”
One vendor says in a blog post that the parking is not onerous. “I have to pay to park too, and it is worth it!”
Estell says that company running the parking is still working the kinks out of actually operating the service. “They are not supposed to charge us to come in and unload. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, and its just a big hassle.”
He says that charging for parking only went into effect a month ago. The end result? “I don’t know yet,” Estell says. “It’s too early to tell. Call me back in six months.”
Although the flea market has no Web site, this Best of Texas blog post gives a good sense of the flavor of the place.
Photo credit, with thanks, compassrosek8.
May 27 update: FleaMarketZone got in touch with the blogger quoted above, Valerie Arnett of junkerval.com. She adds that the bargains available at the market make the parking worthwhile. “Last week, I bought an early 1960s bicycle in excellent condition for $35. A pair of 1920s crystal ornate table lamps for $20,” she says. “These bargains are there every weekend!”
However, Arnett is not satisfied with the quality of the parking, and has strong opinions about it. “Yes, I have to pay. The parking is unorganized and unfair. They are breaking the disability law because my disabled customers have to pay $5.00 to get to the specially parked spaces,” she says. “There are long lines, unnecessary delays. No one knows what they are doing, very poor planning, and the rumor is they are raising the price in October! What folly! Instead If they had started with parking at $2.00, everyone would pay it, and business would be booming. Then wait and raise it to $3.00 and so on. A little common business sense would be great.”
Arnett was kind enough to post a copy of her letter to FleaMarketZone on her Web site. Many thanks!