Shoppers looking for a parking space in Wollongong's city centre were spoiled for choice yesterday, as long as they were prepared to reach into their wallets for a $2 coin.On the first day of metered parking, some CBD streets were virtually deserted and most had only a handful of parked cars scattered along them.Traffic congestion became a distant memory with significantly fewer cars queuing at traffic lights or driving laps around the city in the hunt for a parking space. Wollongong paid parking gripes 'will fade' Shoppers, stallholders slam Wollongong parking metersThe ghostly silence was backed up by Wollongong City Council research conducted before the roll-out of paid parking.The Inner City Parking Strategy estimated at least 30 per cent of traffic in the city centre was circulating in search of a parking space, while one third of timed on-street spaces were occupied by all-day parkers.The downturn in traffic yesterday prompted a mixed response from business operators.On lower Crown St, Flame Express Cafe part-owner Racheal Cleverly said the reduction in customers was noticeable immediately."It is a lot quieter than usual," she said. "There are never usually parking spaces out the front and today most are empty. The regular customers are still coming in, but we are not getting the people who pull up and park."Ms Cleverly was also concerned that the half-hour time limits were too short and customers would be reluctant to fork out an extra $2 for a coffee. A few doors down, Pasta Fina owner Flaminio Fina agreed and said even if customers spent $20 in his shop, the cost of parking would still be a big deterrent. "One way or another I think I will be forced to close down," he said.But other businesses in Crown St, including Turkish Delight and the Continental Deli reported no change in the number of customers."I don't know if the meters are a good thing but we will see what happens," Turkish Delight owner Adam Gungor said.On Keira St, Bar Pellegrini part-owner Denis Saveski was bracing for the worst yesterday but found the situation better than expected."To be honest, I am surprised there are as many cars as there are. There were a lot of negative vibes in the lead-up but people are already paying," he said."I can't say there has been too much effect on my business today. But it is only day one and it will be a gamble. I think $2 for half an hour or less is harsh though."May Feng of Keira St Newsagency and Joanne Borg from QE Convenience had a less favourable introduction to the meters, reporting fewer customers."It seems much quieter and people don't want to pay just to buy the paper," Ms Feng said. "They should make the first half-hour of parking free."