Downtown Parking Task Force still unsure about what to do

At the Missourian, we try to experiment with different forms of journalism and various techniques. An example of this sort of experimentation is the watchword blog itself. The public life beat tries to provide those who are interested with information about what is going on in Columbia and Boone County government and what the public officials, boards and committees are up to. Not everything can make it into the paper, but that doesn’t mean we are not present or aware of the meetings. So, we use this blog to fill in the gaps between everything that is happening in city and county government and what makes it in the newspaper.

With this in mind, I have been covering the Downtown Parking Task Force meetings. While the meetings may not “make news,” the task force is still at work and will eventually make a suggestion to Columbia City Council that could have a big impact on downtown, parking technologies and parking rates. I hope that, once the task force has come up with what it thinks is the best plan to present to the city council, anyone who is interested can access coverage from the blog about how the committee reached its decision.

The meeting today began with a subcommittee meeting of the technology force. The marketing subcommittee meeting was canceled due to a lack of a quorum.

At 4 p.m., the entire task force met together for a presentation by Walker Parking Consultants. This company is consulting with the city on the Short Street structure.

The presentation, though the company was more concerned with Short Street garage parking than general parking, was focused on different types of parking options including single meter, gates, credit card meters, pay-by-space, pay-and-display and more. Information on these can be found in previous blogs. They went over advantages and disadvantages, which the Missourian has covered in a previous article.

One aspect the presentation covered was Automatic Vehicle Identification Readers. These are fixtures positioned in a car that are scanned by transponders fixed in garages. They are for use by permit parkers. Once scanned and approved as valid by the transponder, the car is allowed in the garage. It is scanned again when leaving the garage. The Walker Parking Consultant team did not recommend Columbia use these because the car fixture has to be positioned exactly right or there will be misreads.

A question brought up was if there were technologies available to show drivers available spaces in garages. The answer, according to the Walker Parking Consultant team, was that yes, there are technologies available. There are sensors that can be placed in each spot and, when available, a green light can show and, when not available, a red spot would show. This information can be transmitted to electronic signs on the garage or down the street.

The consultant team said you could put any parameters you want on gated systems including time limits. If you say permit parkers cannot park before or after a certain time, and they try to enter or leave outside of those boundaries, you could charge them a fee. This, of course, presumes a gated system.

The company said IPS meters are a good choice if you want to keep single space meters and are a good company. They had no strong feelings either way about IPS, which the task force is considering going with.

The company suggested for Short Street garage in particular that pay-on-foot methods would be best. This would require gating systems, which would allow the city to keep track of parking patterns. One thing to consider in all of this is the client parking in this garage, particularly hotel parking. In the garage, they suggest putting three pay-on-foot machines. One would be a lesser version accepting only credit card as payment. The other two, placed in busier sections of the garage, would be a more expensive version including cash, coin, credit and debit. The downfall to this type of technology is that it costs much more than single lane pay stations or other mechanisms.

The company said they would remain available to discuss different techniques and would like to know by early next year what the task force is leaning toward, because that would be what the new garage needs to incorporate.

The task force asked for some hard numbers comparing costs of different systems but agreed they will use some type of gated system. The company plans to get back with them on comparison costs. The question is will it be a single pay-in-lane station or multiple pay-on-foot stations.

Hopefully this helps anyone following the task force. Stay tuned for the next meeting

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