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How much will people pay to park?

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A committee working to improve downtown parking will meet Thursday to consider requiring visitors to pay to park in the Jackson Street garage.

The parking implementation committee will discuss a recommendation from REI Real Estate Services, which manages the garage, to allow the first hour of parking to be free, with the rate increasing $1 every two hours and topping out at $5 for nine to 24 hours of parking.

The move would stop the shuffle of cars in the garage and would give downtown visitors the option to pay to park in one spot without moving their vehicles, said Gary Thompson, REI company vice president.

The company currently offers free public parking for up to three hours and paid reserved parking in the Jackson Street facility, which is across from the Columbus Post Office.

The REI recommendation also may involve increasing the paid monthly permit rates in the garage, according to Thompson.

The garage has 396 spots, 94 of which are open to the public. So far this year, 80 percent of the total spots, on average, have been filled daily.

The parking committee, made up of city officials and downtown business owners, already has recommended that the redevelopment commission approve paid parking in the Jackson Street garage for visitors.

The committee now will look over recommendations from Thompson about how to monitor those using the garage.

Thompson told the commission that in order to lower the Jackson Street garage gates to charge for visitor parking, REI would need to:

Relocate the pay-on-foot machine from the Second Street garage to the Jackson Street garage, a move that would cost an estimated $4,300 for workers to move, set up and complete electrical work on the machine.

Put in wiring and any necessary equipment to allow the Jackson Street garage to communicate with the “brain” of the parking system, which is in the Second Street garage.

Program the rate schedule and test equipment.

Enter access card information for distribution to permit holders.

Prepare a daily ticket stock.

Purchase signs to direct people who park there daily to use the pay-on-foot station and to alert them of the hourly rates.

Implement daily rates.

Adjust monthly parking rates.

The committee will review the recommendations from REI and then make its own recommendation to the redevelopment commission, said Heather Pope, the city’s director of redevelopment.

If the commission approves REI’s recommendations, Thompson said, the gates and rates could be active within six weeks of getting the green light — including time to make new agreements with the post office and Cummins Inc. and to notify those who regularly use the garage.

Thompson also encouraged the commission and the city to make a link between street parking and garage parking.

By limiting free parking to one hour, he said, the garage will take care of the employee shuffle and free up parking spaces because employees aren’t going to leave their office every hour to move their car.

However, requiring payment to park in the Jackson Street garage will likely push the parking shufflers out of the garage to the Washington Street area, he said.

But he added linking the way the garage operates with changes in street parking would ensure that the city isn’t just pushing the downtown parking problem to another area.

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