City eyes parking enforcement

With Cummins launching a voluntary pilot program to begin returning some of its employees to downtown Columbus this Monday, the city’s parking commission is hoping to resume enforcement of downtown parking restrictions.

The Columbus Parking Commission approved a resolution recommending that the Columbus Board of Works restart enforcement of downtown parking time limits, which have been put on hold amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The commission’s role is to make recommendations to bodies such as the city’s board of works and the city council, officials said. Commission member and city engineer Dave Hayward said that in this case, the board of works has the authority to restart enforcement and determine when that change occurs.

The parking commission’s resolution states that during the pandemic, the board of works directed the Columbus Police Department to suspend enforcement of all downtown three hour parking regulations indefinitely (with the exception of handicap spaces). The city also allowed “two short term pickup parking signs” per business and a 15 minute limit on these spaces, if necessary.

The commission is now recommending that enforcement of all time limit restrictions should restart. They are also suggesting a “grace period” with the use of warning tickets. In addition, all parking spaces for short-term carry-out pickup should be removed, with spaces reverting to previous time limits. The commission recommends implementing these changes immediately.

The city has already ended carryout parking, Hayward said.

Commission member and downtown business owner Jeff Baker said that the city should resume enforcement as soon as possible, given the return of Cummins employees.

“I’d rather they all got started off on the right foot, as opposed to three weeks after they’re back, all of the sudden then it changes on them,” he said.

One of the issues the commission has discussed since its formation is downtown employees abusing free three-hour parking spaces for long-term parking.

Cummins employs about 8,000 people in the Columbus area and has several offices downtown, including its corporate headquarters, which can accommodate around 1,000 workers.

It is not known exactly how many employees have opted to participate in Cummins’ pilot program and return to the corporate headquarters downtown, but 1,500 received invitations, according to Cummins spokesman Jon Mills.

During the group’s discussion, commission member Lisa Williams said that part of a city ordinance regarding parking will need to be amended regarding an error of omission. Parking commission chairman and city councilman Tom Dell said this will require city council approval.

The commission also agreed that they should reach out to the Columbus Redevelopment Commission about the possibility of funding further work by Nelson/Nygaard, which has studied the city’s parking situation in the past.

The parking commission found that an updated parking study is not necessarily needed. However, the firm could provide information regarding the city’s options for paid parking technology, equipment and fee structures, said Dell, who supports the addition of parking kiosks or meters.

He added that they will need to make a presentation to the redevelopment commission, have them discuss the matter and then see if the commission is willing to fund this endeavor.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”How parking is enforced” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

According to parking commission member Lisa Williams (the Columbus Police Department’s representative on the commission), an individual’s first overtime parking violation of the year is given a warning. Each subsequent violation will bring a fine of $40. There is also an additional $10 penalty if the payment is late. 

Municipal code also states that when a vehicle "remains continuously parked" in the downtown business corridor area for longer than the posted time, the driver will receive a notice of violation. If the same vehicle remains parked anywhere in the area after the first notice (even if it has moved to a different place), a second notice will be issued. 

However, if the first notice is the driver’s first violation in the calendar year, no additional notices or fines will be given for the same overtime parking violation on the same day. 

[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”What’s next” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

The Columbus Board of Works meets every Tuesday at 10 a.m.

The parking commission’s next meeting is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. on July 15.