Downtown parking: Commission to consider more changes

The Columbus Parking Commission is expected to make more recommendations about removing three-hour limits from certain downtown parking spaces.

The group will meet at 2:15 p.m. on Wednesday in Conference Room 3 of Columbus City Hall. The agenda includes discussions regarding expansion of unlimited parking on side streets, a recent parking utilization study and parking rates in leased areas.

The Columbus Board of Works voted in December to approve the commission’s recommendation that a number of downtown side streets move from three-hour limits to free, all-day parking on a trial basis. This went into effect in mid-January, with city officials saying they would monitor how the change affects parking space availability on Washington Street.

According to Executive Director of Public Works Dave Hayward, the following areas are included in the trial: Fourth Street from Jackson to Franklin, Fifth Street from Jackson to Franklin, Sixth Street from Jackson to Franklin and Seventh Street from Jackson to Franklin.

Hayward said that there are still some side streets, such as Jackson, that were not included in the trial that have retained their three-hour limits. The parking commission is expected to discuss whether its members would like to recommend changes for these streets.

The commission will also discuss the impact of the current trial on downtown parking availability. Columbus City Councilman and commission chairman Tom Dell said that it seems like more spaces have become available as a result, including those on Washington Street.

“I think right now we’re getting the turnover we want,” he said. “I think from that standpoint, because we’ve added availability for some of our employees, they’re not doing a lot of the normal revolving, ‘I’ll park here for so long and then move, and then park someplace else’ and that type of thing or switch with people back and forth.”

He also noted that they have received positive feedback from employees and neighboring residents, and this will be taken into account as the commission considers whether to recommend that the Columbus Board of Works make the change permanent. It’s also possible that they might want to continue the trial period.

The commission also needs to examine the overall parking ordinance and what revisions it might require, Dell added.

For instance, he said they might discuss enforcement equipment and if there’s a way to eliminate one of the recurring complaints they’ve heard about the current three-hour parking system — that is, that someone who parks for a short period of time early in the day and comes back later could get ticketed as if they’d been there for more than three hours.

“We’d like to alleviate that situation,” said Dell.

In regards to the agenda item on parking rates in leased areas, the parking commission previously recommended that the board of works cut the cost of leasing spaces in two city-owned lots. However, the board decided in January to table the matter until March, as Hayward said at the time that making the change immediately might interfere with the results of the trial.

Lots 3 and 10 are located at Fourth and Franklin and Seventh and Franklin, respectively. The commission recommended that that the cost of leasing space in these lots be cut from $65 per month to $32.50 to “maximize usage of current parking infrastructure,” Hayward wrote in a previous memo to the board.

There will also be some changes in regards to the parking commission’s membership moving forward. As stated in the city’s municipal code, the commission is to be made up of eight voting members: a city engineer or their designee, a representative of the Columbus Police Department, a representative of the Columbus Area Visitors Center, a member of the Columbus Redevelopment Commission or their designee, a downtown merchant, an at-large member, a member of Columbus City Council and a city resident who works in the downtown area.

Andrew Beckort, who was recently promoted to city engineer, is now a member of the commission, per the city’s website. There is also an opening for a representative of the redevelopment commission; this role was previously filled by Shanda Sasse, manager of The Commons.

Former city councilman Dascal Bunch, who served as a nonvoting member of the parking commission, died on Feb. 26.