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Longtime residents of Columbus might have seen something familiar in stories about the most recent study on parking in the downtown area.
There were several issues in the early findings of the study by a Boston consulting firm, which was commissioned by the city in response to concerns about available parking in the downtown area. One struck a familiar note.
The shortage of parking spaces is more a perception than a reality. In fact, the consultants from Nelson/Nygaard suggested that there are more than enough spaces to accommodate both workers and shoppers in the downtown area.
What’s familiar is that it is the same thing that was said a number of times over the past 50 years in a never-ending debate about downtown parking. And that was before any of the city’s three downtown garages were built.
That’s not to say that the new garages added over the past five years aren’t needed. The sudden and massive infusion of hundreds of workers in the downtown area together with the added traffic to the city’s entertainment district created an immediate need for additional spaces.
But as the study indicated, the downtown spaces are being used inefficiently, just as they have been in many instances in the past.
Although more work is needed on completion of the study, the consultants provided an early set of recommendations, including:
The city should stop leasing spaces to Cummins Inc. in the Jackson Street parking garage.
Customer parking should be moved to the lower floors of the Jackson Street garage with employee leasing moved to the upper floors.
The city should reduce the number of spaces leased to The Cole apartments in the Second Street garage.
Paid public parking should be instituted in the Jackson Street garage and in the “Main Street” area between Jackson and Franklin streets and Second and Fifth streets.
Public parking in high-demand, on-street areas should cost about 50 cents an hour, with the first 15 minutes free. Parking in the garage should cost less to encourage its use.
There should be no hour limit on paid parking spaces.
The price for parking fines should be increased.
More free parking should be added in some areas of downtown, such as on First, Jackson and Third streets.
Designated free parking areas for downtown employees should be created.
Employees of Cummins should be encouraged to park in the company’s parking garage at Sixth Street instead of on the streets.
Better parking signage should be installed.
City officials have a great many options to choose from, but these are a good start to finally bringing an end to a 50-year-old debate.
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