Tim Chitwood: Save to pay 'Uptown Columbus Parking Tax'

February 24, 2013 

Prepare for the Uptown Columbus Parking Tax.

Start putting a few bucks away now, like at the rate of $1 an hour, because that's what it's going to cost you to park on the street downtown, if Columbus Council on a consultant's recommendation passes the Uptown Columbus Parking Tax.

You have heard about the parking tax, right? No?

Then you must not have heard about the public meeting Thursday in the Government Center council chambers. And you must not have been alone in that: Only about 20 people were there, most of them so-called "stakeholders" like Uptown Columbus, the W.C. Bradley Co. and downtown merchants.

It's also possible you just couldn't get into the public meeting because the door was locked. I rattled it twice before Metra Director Saundra Hunter let me in. She said the door was closed because officers at a law enforcement event next door were making too much noise.

What else could Metra do? It's not like a parking enforcement officer could march over and say, "HEY! We're trying to hold a 'public meeting' with only 20 'stakeholders' over here! So you are going to keep it down or is someone going to have to get a ticket?"

The stakeholders had lots of ideas, such as $5-a-day valet parking. And they had some complaints like people don't think it's safe downtown, thanks to the newspaper, and that's just a misapprehension, and oh, by the way, it's really not safe for a waitress with $200 in tips to walk two blocks to her car at night.

But no one complained about the Uptown Columbus Parking Tax -- or got the message that yes, downtown is pretty safe, unless Metra catches you parking too long, bends you over a decorative Uptown railing and takes $20 out of your back pocket.

The $1 an hour Uptown Columbus Parking Tax was floated Thursday by a consultant with the firm Fuss & O'Neill, which based its recommendations on a May 15-17 city survey of parking trends between the RiverWalk and Sixth Avenue and Ninth and 14th Streets.

The survey showed only one area nearing its on-street parking capacity -- around the Government Center, where it neared 85 percent, or "practical capacity." Everywhere else the turnover in street

parking was adequate.

In fact, on-street parking is so adequate that Metra can't make people use its garages, which is why it would like the Uptown Columbus Parking Tax.

The consultant suggested restructuring time limits incrementally between 10th and 12th streets, with a two-hour limit and $1-an-hour fee, and offering free garage parking for a while to lure people in.

Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin said the Uptown Columbus Parking Tax likely would be an ordinance proposed to council in April. She said Uptown Columbus President Richard Bishop would make sure the merchants got copies.

No one at the meeting represented downtown workers, so finally I asked the Fuss & O'Neill guy whether he really intended to charge workers a dollar an hour to park along streets like Front Avenue, where the city's own study showed street parking was not in demand. And he said yes. And I again pointed out no problem existed. And he said not yet.

So get ready for the Uptown Columbus Parking Tax. And remember: Downtown is actually pretty safe, at night.

It's parking there during the day that's dangerous.

Tim Chitwood, tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.com, 706-571-8508.

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