Public Reacts to Parking Meter Rates Doubling

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COLUMBIA - Tuesday people in Columbia reacted to the news that parking meter rates will double starting July 1. The Columbia City Council voted Monday night to increase meter rates from 30 to 60 cents per hour.

"Instead of coming downtown and putting a quarter in having a five minute errand, you've got to run and say 'Well let's go grab something to eat' or 'Let's go check out the store next door,'" said Liza Babington, assistant manager at Alpine Shop. "People are going to say 'I only have 25 minutes.' They are going run in, do what they have to do and then they are going to leave because they don't want to pay another 25 cents or however long to stay and hang out downtown."

"It doesn't seem like a lot, but all those quarters add up," said Babington.

They do add up. The City of Columbia projects it will earn an extra $600,000 each year. The city plans to use the money to pay for building a new parking garage located on Short Street by the Regency Hotel.

"A lot of the downtown employees have to park on the street, which when you are making minimum wage and you are working an eight hour shift that's a big chunck of change," said Babington. She said that could increase turn over for employees who get jobs at other companies where they don't have to pay for parking.

In addition to the parking meter rate increases, the city also increased monthly fees to park in garages. It will now cost $50 each month instead of the previous $40 fee.

"I don't necessarily see it as a bad thing," said Joel Ewbank a resident of Columbia. "I think it is kind of a sign of the times and in essence it is a positive aspect. It shows that Columbia is growing, we are getting a lot more revenue, a lot more residents, the schools are getting a lot more enrollment, and with growth you have these kinds of things that come about."

Ewbank moved from St. Louis where he said parking rates are higher.

"People need to realize that we do have such a great viable downtown area," said Ewbank. "This is a great little area. It is very unique and it makes Columbia special."

"I work downtown, so I have to park at the meters almost everyday," said Bridget Tobin, a Columbia resident. "I think it's kind of ridiculous for it to be doubled at this point because it's already been a huge hassle to pay the meters everyday."

Babington said she thinks people who work downtown will be the ones most negatively impacted by the change. She doesn't see it making a huge difference for Alpine Shop customers.

The city has lowered some rates. The city decided to put monthly parking permits on sale in its mostly empty 5th and Walnut parking garage. Starting July 1, monthly fees to park in the garage go on sale through the end of the year. It will cost $35 until January 1, 2012, at which time the rates will jump back up to their current rates of $60 for covered spaces and $50 for uncovered. Hourly parking in the garages will remain the same. It will now be 10 cents cheaper than parking on the street. Additionally the council decided to make parking in the garages free on Saturdays.