Columbia parking audit results to be released at public forum

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COLUMBIA - The results of a parking audit in downtown Columbia and MU's East Campus will be released September 22.

The audit was conducted by Smart Growth America, a national coalition designed to help communities grow efficiently.

From August 27-29, city staff members and volunteers measured parking in downtown Columbia and in surrounding neighborhoods.

Columbia City Planner Rachel Bacon said it's important to obtain data in order to make the necessary adjustments.

"We're seeing a lot of over-parking in areas such as Benton Stevens and East Campus, where more cars than legal spots are occurring," Bacon said. "In the downtown, we're having issues with over-capacity in some areas, but also under-capacity in areas that are a little bit more on the fringe areas of downtown, and a couple of the parking garages are very highly utilized while others are more empty, and so the idea is to get some real numbers behind those perceptions that we already have."

Bacon participated in the audit and saw what parking was like on East Campus.

"When I went out to East Campus on Friday around lunchtime, I did see that almost every legal spot and every illegal but possible spot was taken at that time," Bacon said.

An MU student who lives on East Campus said she can never find parking on the street.

"Once I park my car in a space, I try not to move it," the student said. "The streets are lined with cars all the time."

Jack Schmidt, a Columbia resident, said he thinks there is plenty of parking in downtown Columbia.

"We have parking spaces and garages all over the place," Schmidt said. "I'd rather see businesses and restaurants go up rather than another parking garage."

Bacon said building a parking garage is not always the answer.

"There's also ways to address parking without building more parking," Bacon said. "Encouraging employees downtown, for instance, to have a pilot program where we try to move downtown employees into spots that are not typically utilized by customers."

The public forum where Smart Growth America representatives are sharing the results will be open to the public. City officials will then decide what to recommend for the future of parking in and around downtown Columbia.

"I think that we need to know more options, have new innovative solutions, and so listening to both the public analyze the data and having these consultants come to give us some suggestions is the next step," Bacon said.

The public forum will be held from 6-8 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at City Hall on Sept. 22.