High Demand and Transit Program Cause Increased Parking Rates

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COLUMBIA - The high demand for parking permits in city garages and surface lots has brought about a price increase for parking permits in downtown Columbia.

As part of the new fiscal budget that started October 1, permit prices for all city owned parking garages increased by $10 per month. This makes a monthly permit for a covered parking garage $75 dollars, or $825 for the yearly permit.

Columbia's director of Public Works, John Glascock, said the demand is too high for the previous rate.

"Our garages are full. Basically we're over-selling all our garages, so that tells us that the rate may be a little too cheap," Glascock said. "There are more parkers than we have spaces that are available."

Drew Gieseke has had a parking permit for the downtown Cherry Street Garage for more than a year. He said it is understandable the city is increasing the rates.

"I think there are a lot of people downtown now; a lot of people want to move downtown. It makes sense from a city standpoint. There's more people; you have to pay or you'll get ticketed," Gieseke said.

Glascock said another reason for the rate increase is to fund Columbia Transit's new Park and Ride Program. All parking permit holders will receive a Columbia Transit bus pass with their regular parking permit. City officials hope this will influence Columbia's drivers to start riding transit more often.

"The money that's generated from this $10 increase will go toward the transit system to help everybody get around the city, give you more flexibility. You wouldn't have to drive your car [downtown] to park in the garage. You can actually ride the bus from your home if you wanted to," Glascock said.

In addition, Glascock said permit holders are getting a good deal because a bus pass would normally cost $55 through Columbia Transit. He also said Columbia Transit needed the money to operate, and parking was the best area to get the money it needs.

"We would either have to cut service or find the money from some other place, such as transportation sales tax, but we felt in this way we would encourage people to use transit," he said. "They're already down here and with their parking pass, you give them for $10 basically to ride."

Parking garage permits are not the only parking fee that will increase. All parking meters south of Locust Street will rise 25 cents per hour, making the new rate one dollar per hour.

Glascock said the rate change is necessary because the city needs increased enforcement in this area for the meters.

"We're constantly having to enforce meters. Some people park and don't pay; we get a lot of money off of that. We don't like it, but it's a necessary evil we have to do to make sure everyone is paying their fair share," said Glascock.

Glascock said the bulk of parkers south of Locust are students and said they usually don't pay their meters.

The parking permit increase is expected to generate about $300,000 annually for Columbia Transit and more than $100,000 in additional revenue from the meters. Glascock said the city would track transit ridership to see if there were any changes from the Park and Ride Program.