Columbia task force recommends permanent commission for parking issues

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COLUMBIA - The Parking and Traffic Management Task Force met on Wednesday to discuss its recommendations for Columbia City Council to fix parking issues, particularly downtown.

The largest suggestion was to create a permanent Parking and Transportation Management Commission. The new commission would be expected to hire a parking expert and consult with the city about its growing parking needs. The commission would also be asked to find a way to accommodate church-goers on Sunday mornings. The task force also suggests the new commission find a way to verify downtown residency or employment so employees and residents can have parking permits.

"We're the second Parking and Traffic Management Task Force to be convened in recent years, so there's an obvious need to bring in citizen input on how to deal with managing issues around transportation," Columbia City Councilman Michael Trapp said. "Creating a transportation management committee makes sense to have a permanent body to gain expertise."

Aside from creating a new commission, the neighborhood subcommittee suggested a residential parking permit program (RPPP). It wants to ensure that residential neighborhoods are protected from overflow parking from businesses and organizations and overnight parking. It does not want primary funding for the RPPP to come from neighborhood residents or meter fees.

Downtown residential areas would require developments with more than 20 bedrooms to provide one-fourth of a parking space per bedroom, which would be one space for every four rooms.

While the force is committed to making parking easier, they favor a city where driving is less of a necessity and walking and biking are great alternatives.

The city hoped to work with businesses downtown and churches to find solutions that would make parking less of a hassle for their customers and congregations.

The task force also included a provision that would make it illegal for companies like owners of apartment complexes to buy parking passes in bulk and resell them for a profit.

The Parking and Traffic Management Task Force approved all the above recommendations and more to be considered by Columbia City Council. The city council is expected to take a look at it in its second meeting of 2017. Trapp said he expects some changes to take effect as early as the spring, but he admitted others may take years because they need the input of an expert and an allotment of city funds.

Trapp also said he does not expect the new parking ordinances to be expensive to the city because parking pays for itself through meters and parking tickets.