Possible Changes in Downtown Parking

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Parking Task Force submitted recommendations to the city council, which might make changes in future downtown parking.

The Task Force discussed incorporating high technology into parking utilities. The new electronic meters communicate wirelessly with the parking utility office. They accept varieties of payment methods, including phone apps.

"In some cases, you can actually pay your meters using a phone app to add time to your meter, even remotely," said Skip Walther, the chairman of Columbia Parking Task Force.

Currently, the meters on Ninth Street south of Locust, have the ability to be configured to accept phone app payments. 

"I think the parking utility has already made the decision to purchase a number of high-tech meters for Ninth Street, as well as a short section of Broadway," said Walther. "That purchase is going to occur, but no more than 50 meters. They are fairly expensive."

Currently, there are five garages in downtown Columbia, with a total of 1,882 parking spaces. The Parking Utility maintains 1,683 meters on street.

"The money that we generate from parking meter usage goes into a fund that maintains our existing infrastructure, and various parking assets," said Walther. "But at this time, there is sufficient revenue for the parking utility to meet all of those obligations."

The Task Force unanimously approved 11 recommendations in the final report based on the current experiment systems. They include:

  • shifting meter enforcement from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. to 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • using a "pay-on-foot" system (where you park then walk to a kiosk to get your ticket) for metered spaces in Short Street Garage
  • installing an electronic sign on the Short Street Garage identifying vacant spaces by floor
  • issuing hang tag permits for all ten hour meters and market them to business owners at a $35 monthly rate, etc.

"It's a thrill to see the amount of work that has been done, and the professionalism in the way that it has been approached," said Brian Gauler, an everyday commuter to downtown Columbia. "The task force has identified issues that I've never considered, simple things like color coding."

The City Council agreed to disband the Parking Task Force after accepting the final report, according to Walther.