Columbia Moves Closer to New Parking Meter Plan

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COLUMBIA - A year after it was formed, a task force formed to analyze the parking needs for the city of Columbia. The group made a recommendation to the City Council to add high-tech meters in the downtown area of 9th Street and Broadway.

After two trial periods last year, task force member Skip Walther said there is a clear consensus about which meters to install. Single space meters received an overwhelmingly positive response compared to muti-space boxes. Walther said there were almost no technical problems with meters placed at each streetside parking spot, and survey responses from the community showed a user-friendly parking experience. The new single space meter accepts coins but also credit and debit cards.

Multi-space meters received a generally negative reaction. According to the task force surveys, people did not enjoy waiting in line to pay for parking, having to remember their parking space number, and the machine was often plagued with maintenance problems.

Money for new meters would come from the city's parking utility department funds. The city will not ask tax payers to fund the project. Revenue from the new meters would initially be used to pay for the cost of installation. Any additional revenue goes back to the parking utility department to pay for garage and meter maintenance.

Walther said the possibility of extra revenue would ultimately make parking a better experience downtown.

"We might be able to buy more high tech meters, another meter enforcement worker. With nearly 2,000 meters, it's difficult to get to all of them in a day. With more workers, I think that encourages people to use those meters instead of risking it and possibly getting a ticket," said Walther.

There is no current timeline on when the city will officially install the new meters. The current high-tech meters on 9th Street are a part of the city's trial period. Those will need to be returned to the company once new ones are installed. That won't happen until the city council approves the meter plan and the parking utility department hires an official vendor through a bidding process for 117 new meters.