A committee evaluating Columbus’ options for improving downtown parking is recommending parking tickets become much more expensive.
First-time violators would continue to receive a free warning ticket.
But the second violation would be a $50 ticket, compared to a $10 ticket issued now, according to the committee’s proposal.
The recommendation is among several that committee members will present to Mayor Kristen Brown, and eventually to the Columbus City Council.
Raising ticket fines is all part of a plan to alleviate downtown parking shortages during the day, as recommended by a parking study done earlier in the year, said Tom Dell, committee member and co-owner of Dell Brothers in downtown Columbus.
Increasing the parking ticket fines will deter people who abuse the free parking aspect of downtown, Dell said.
The committee, made up of members of the council and representatives of downtown businesses and restaurants, has been studying Columbus’ parking ordinance and the consultant study about parking from Boston-based Nelson/Nygaard since March.
The consultant study defines the downtown core area as Washington Street between Second and Fifth streets and one block from Washington on Third and Fourth streets. An additional option to the core is Washington between Fifth and Seventh streets.
Nelson/Nygaard consultants told the city that the most sought-after spaces in front of downtown businesses are used by downtown business employees, who move their vehicles from space to space in order to avoid a parking ticket. The current downtown parking policy limits parking to three-hour timed parking each day in the core area.
In addition to increasing ticket costs, the committee wants to improve downtown parking enforcement by recommending the city buy new parking monitoring equipment and add staff to enforce the time limits, Dell said.
The city now has one parking monitor who charts car license plates by hand on a legal pad with corresponding times.
Committee members will ask the city’s technology advisory committee to purchase hand-held parking monitoring devices, Dascal Bunch, committee member, said.
Dell said he didn’t know how much implementing all of the committee’s recommendations would cost, but adding two new hand-held parking monitoring devices could cost about $20,000.
In addition to the enforcement changes, the parking committee also is suggesting adding wayfinding and parking signs, updating the parking and traffic ordinance and making the board of works the entity in charge of dealing with parking issues, instead of the city council, Dell said.
“It got to the point where we thought to make any change to downtown area, you’ve got to go back to council and go through two readings to change an ordinance,” he said. “We felt like most of this stuff kind of falls under the board of works’ realm of responsibility and that’s so most of this stuff can get done on a more expedient basis.”
The committee also wants to improve parking garage management by lowering the gates on the Fourth Street garage so that downtown visitors can choose to pay in order to stay downtown for any period of time they prefer. Prices haven’t been determined yet, but the garage would become paid parking during the work day, Dell said.
With the mayor’s approval, the recommendations could go before city council at a July 15 meeting. Bunch said he hopes the recommendations for changes in the parking ordinance could be in place by September.
The $85,000 Nelston/Nygaard consultant recommended the city use parking meters downtown to increase parking space availability. The mayor, who did not favor going to the parking meter option first, asked for an additional recommendation for options without parking meters.
Brown then asked the committee to begin looking at the consultant recommendations to see what changes could be made before going to the meter option.