Task force attempts to finalize downtown parking suggestions

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COLUMBIA - The downtown parking picture is a bit clearer after Wednesday night.

The Parking and Traffic Management Task Force met to finalize its list of recommendations for addressing downtown parking issues.

The task force suggested reviewing parking signage for uniformity, clarity and visibility. This would include collaborating with the University of Missouri for a consistent signage approach.

"If we can meet with the university and discuss how we can collaborate on having consistent signage and language, it may make all of our parking usage a little bit easier," Ward 2 council member and task force co-chair Michael Trapp said.

The group also discussed financing options, including a discussion on how revenue, fines and fees should be appropriated. The task force suggested revenues should not be transferred to a general fund, but rather stay within the parking utility.

Though the task force presented new suggestions, recommendations made at earlier meetings were officially voted on to its list of solutions, such as passing an ordinance forbidding the resale or parking permits by the city. This would make buying a permit and selling it for a profit illegal.

Another previous recommendation was to hire a parking and transportation management consultant. The duties for the position were fleshed out, which include assessing parking supply and demand downtown and in neighborhoods, and developing a list to assess the cost of operating and maintaining parking infrastructure and systems.

"We need to collect a lot of data, and we think an outside expert might be helpful," Trapp said.

The task force also expanded its suggestions on changing downtown meters. One recommendation included making first parking infractions ticketless, and instead have enforcers leave a reminder about meter times with a coupon to a local business. However, after the first violation, offenders will receive graduated fines, increasing with each ticket. Trapp said he wants enforcement to be friendly but certain. 

"Right now we have people who collect parking tickets as a cost of doing business, and they park freely because the ticket's not very much money," Trapp said. "A ticket is really a way to change behavior. The $15 dollar incentive encourages almost everyone, but we have some people who are not dissuaded."

In previous meetings, they proposed increasing the time limit on downtown meters from two hours to three hours to reduce tickets.

The task force will meet two more times in December and will present the final list of recommendations to City Council by the beginning of 2017.