COLUMBIA – Get out your change. Starting July 1, it will cost twice as much to park at a meter downtown.
The Columbia City Council unanimously passed a bill Monday evening that:
- Doubles the fee at downtown street meters from 30 cents to 60 cents per hour.
- Increases the fee at meters near MU from 50 cents to 75 cents per hour.
- Raises the cost of surface lot permits from $40 to $50 per month.
- Establishes free parking on Saturdays in all city garages.
- Charges $35 per month for permits in the Fifth and Walnut streets garage from July 1 to Dec. 31.
The rate hike comes after the council increased fines for parking meter violations earlier this year.
The city plans to use revenue from the price increases to fund the proposed Short Street garage. The City Council authorized the purchase of property on Short Street for construction of the garage from Broadway Lodging LLC for $1.25 million on June 6. City staff said the total cost of the garage will be $9.2 million.
Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl asked whether the revenue from the price increases would actually cover the costs associated with the garage.
In the event that funds fall short, Mayor Bob McDavid mentioned funds totaling about $2 million in parking utility that could be used to make up the difference.
McDavid said downtown business owners are split on the issue.
Ruth LaHue, owner of My Secret Garden at 823 E. Broadway, said the meter rate increase wouldn’t affect her business.
“I think it’s a good thing when people come in to make change for the meters,” LaHue said. “Then they get to see what the inside of our store looks like.”
Lee Sensintaffar, part owner of Iron Tiger Tattoos at 11 N. Tenth St., said the city’s parking policies have harmed local businesses.
“They’re trying to pay for the deficit they created with the garage by charging people that won’t use it,” Sensintaffar said.
The council appears split over whether the rate increases should remain in place if the Short Street garage is not built.
The current, lower meter rates would suffice if the garage isn't built, Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony said.
However, First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt said the increases were a long time coming and that the issue of rate increases went beyond the construction of the Short Street garage.
“This is an overall solution to an overall problem,” Schmidt said. “The rates unfortunately weren’t raised for many years, so we had to face this all at once.”
McDavid said he would appoint a parking task force at the July 5 City Council meeting, after the new fees take effect. The committee would:
- review rates downtown on streets, surface lots and garages.
- review technology that collects fees and recommend updates to that technology.
- propose marketing for the garages which could include the use of shuttles, bicycles and differential rate structures between street and garage parking.
The task force’s recommendations would be delivered in a year after its appointment, McDavid said.