Volunteers to be active in parking audits

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COLUMBIA - Parking audits throughout downtown Columbia and local neighborhoods like Benton-Stephens and East Campus will undergo parking audits this week that are not only being conducted by city employees.

Volunteers were informed of what their tasks will be at Wednesday night's Parking Audit Volunteer Orientation, which was conducted by City Management Fellow Leah Christian.

Starting on Thursday morning, volunteers will be sent out on 2 and a half hour shifts in designated areas to collect data on parking paterns, utilization and turnover.  They will be looking at parking occupancy, going from block to block counting how many vacant spaces there are four times per day.

Parking turnover is measured checking one space on each block, and tracking how long that car is in that space and how long the spot is being used.  Chalk will be used to mark behind the passenger side tire of the vehicle.

The data collected from these audits will then be reviewed by a consultant from Smart Growth America, a nonprofit group that was approved to give Columbia a grant for this project a year ago.

Volunteers will meet at Columbia City Hall before their shifts, which will range throughout the day.  They will be equipped with a construction vest, a map of their assigned area and specific directions on how to collect the data.

The main destination of these audits will range between East Broadway and University Avenue, and will also go through the parking garages in those areas.

John Clark is a volunteer for the audits, and he expects the audits to help go toward a long-term downtown transportation plan to create a much more walkable downtown and that is easier for vehicles to get in and out of parking spots.

"The way that we're going to have people downtown, get to shops and do their stuff, before we invest millions of dollars in more parking facilities, and then we're locked in for two generations and a real lost opportunity.  This is just one step and part of that long-term goal."

The audits will run through Saturday and then will be reviewed in an open community form at Columbia City Hall on September 22nd.