COLUMBIA — Those looking for long-term parking in downtown Columbia might soon have an option other than the city's four parking garages.
The Downtown Parking Task Force wants the Columbia City Council to allow the sale of permits for the city's 10-hour meters, which are located on the periphery of downtown Columbia.
The parking task force is recommending the city charge $35 per month for an on-street parking permit, or about $1.25 per day. The permit would allow drivers to park at any of the city's 10-hour meters.
The new permits would be an alternative to the city's parking garage permits, which cost from $50 to $65 a month.
According to data collected by the Public Works Department, the city's 10-hour meters are only occupied 10 percent of the time.
"The unused space is on the street," said Downtown Parking Task Force member Deb Sheals during the task force meeting on Thursday.
The new permits are "in the spirit of opening up parking downtown," said John Ott, another member of the task force.
The members of the task force believe that many of the cars parking for longer than two hours on Ninth Street and Broadway are employees who are working at downtown businesses. The purpose of the newly proposed on-street permits is to free up space for customers of the downtown businesses by giving the employees a more affordable location to park.
The parking task force also recommended the city step up enforcement on Ninth Street and Broadway for drivers parking for more than the maximum of two hours.
Richard King, the owner of The Blue Note and Mojo's and a member of the parking task force, said people are parking at two-hour meters and "plugging" the meters all day.
"I think if we give the employees an affordable option and step up enforcement, then parking will open up," Sheals said.
John Schneller is supervising editor.