Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas wants to boost parking fees downtown again.
Thomas has asked for either an increase of 10 cents per hour at parking meters or a $10-per-month increase in parking garage permits to be included in the city’s budget for fiscal 2018. He wants the extra money to pay for the first steps in establishing residential parking permit programs for neighborhoods that surround MU.
The Columbia City Council is set to discuss and take a final vote on the amendment, along with the rest of the budget, at the Sept. 18 council meeting.
Talk of implementing a parking program for residents in areas such as East Campus and various streets west of campus has been steadily circulating among residents and the council since the fall of 2014, when the North Village Arts District established a permit-only parking program. However, three years later, those areas have yet to come up with a solution.
Previous attempts to gain ground on the issue include a 2015 audit that measured the number of non-resident parkers in several of the neighborhoods and the creation of Parking and Traffic Management Task Force that has since been terminated.
The parking crunch downtown has grown worse with the new student apartment complexes and MU’s decision to reduce parking options for students. As a result, students and staff are parking even on the streets of neighborhoods without permit systems. Permanent neighborhood residents and tenants sometimes are unable to find parking spots.
According to previous Missourian reporting, the North Village pilot program allowed the city to estimate costs for implementing such a program in East Campus. If the neighborhood were to go with metered parking, the project would cost about $29,350, but it would raise about $34,310 every year. Without meters, another form of revenue would be necessary to cover about $10,000 in operational costs.
However, before the projects can get underway, Thomas said the logistics for each neighborhood need to be worked out. That would include holding neighborhood meetings to learn whether residents would prefer meters, designated parking permits for residents and their guests or a mixture of the two. Thomas hopes the increase in downtown parking fees would pay for the necessary time and staff to lead those meetings and hammer out details.
Thomas said this kind of discussion would be especially necessary for East Campus, where the population is a mix of permanent residents and student renters.
East Campus resident Michael Goldschmidt, however, said new meetings are unnecessary.
“We’ve been getting at this issue for years,” Goldschmidt said. “We’ve discussed parking several times already as a neighborhood, and it’s time for the city to implement a permit program.”
Elizabeth Crawford, who rents multiple East Campus properties, is skeptical that any parking program is feasible.
“I can see where the residents want their visitors to come and have a place to park, but I want to make sure we aren’t creating a major inconvenience and cost to the people who live there and who want to rent from there,” Crawford said. “I’m open to discuss a solution, but I think it would be logistically very difficult to control them (permit passes) and hand them out. If you have a building where there are eight apartments and 30 tenants, how many passes would they get? What if they run out of spaces? Would it be first come first serve?”
Crawford noted that most East Campus renters live west of Ann Street, while permanent residents tend to live to the east. She suggested separate conversations and plans for each group might be best.
The rest of city council agrees parking congestion needs to be addressed, but some oppose downtown fee increases.
Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp said he would hate to see parking fees rise, “but I also think with the university squeezing the parking supply, it would be wise to better protect our neighborhoods from students and faculty parking there and walking.”
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said he’d prefer to see the city’s Parking and Traffic Management Task Force reinstated and to rely on more in-depth studies done by a permit group to lead the discussion.
“We need to create a permanent (parking) commission because that was the recommendation by the task force,” Skala said. “I’m inclined to be a little reluctant to raise any fees before we can establish that commission.”