Debate begins to fix Columbia\'s parking garage problem

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COLUMBIA - Columbia's Downtown Leadership Council began debate Tuesday afternoon on how to solve a slew of problems with parking downtown. 

Recently the city has made improvements to parking like allowing drivers to pay with their phones instead of feeding the meter with change, but many on the council argue the city still needs more improvements. 

In an effort to standardize the garages downtown, the city has moved all of Plaza Garage's hourly parking spots to the top floor. It has kept the premium and permit spaces down below. City officials say the consolidation will make it easier for users of the garage to find those spaces. Richard Stone, engineering manager for Columbia Public Works said, "It is much more efficient for the public and for us.”

Opponents argue it's unfair to hourly users who have to trek all the way to the top floor. Brent Gardner of the Downtown Leadership Council said he sees the disadvantages to non-permit holders. "The permit parking down to the main floor seems like a mistake because its harder for people to park there." 

People at the meeting made a few suggestions on how to improve the parking situation including a parking validation program and having employees park at permit spots on quieter streets so they won't take up parking garage spots.  

Kimi Kulacic, a frequent user of the garages, said finding a parking spot is an annoyance. "I always have found it super difficult to find places. There's just not enough spots. A lot of the times when I go into the garage, there will be just nowhere to park and you'll have to drive all the way up and even then you usually won't find a space," Kulacic said. 

No plan has been established yet on how to fix these budding issues. The next meeting to address the issue will be next month.