Study focuses on downtown Columbus parking: What do you recommend?

Have you been wondering about those people walking around downtown Columbus this week wearing reflective vests and writing down automobile license plate numbers?

They’re volunteers taking part in a parking study to help the city understand current parking patterns, said Saundra Hunter, director of METRA, which oversees city parking downtown.

From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and today, the volunteers are walking up and down the streets, north and south from 9th to 13th Streets and east and west from Bay Avenue to 7th Avenue, recording the license numbers of cars parked on city streets, Hunter said. The information will be turned over to a parking consultant for analysis.

The workers are volunteers from various city departments, students from Columbus State University and the Youth Advisory Council, Hunter said. She said they had not tallied how many volunteers they’d had as of Wednesday afternoon.

The parking study is the result of a recent request from Columbus Council, according to Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin.

At council’s request, Goodwin formed a committee that involved the city planning department, traffic engineering, Uptown Columbus and others to devise a plan, she said. They decided the city could gather the necessary data in-house, then employ a consultant, who will be paid by Uptown and the W.C. Bradley Co., to analyze it and make recommendations.

The study will look at many aspects of downtown parking, Goodwin said, but cited two specifically.

Most of downtown has two-hour parking, but it’s different on Broadway, she said. On Broadway, a driver can park for two hours per day on any given block. If they move their cars, they must move to another block to avoid a ticket. On other downtown streets, drivers can just move to another space.

The city is also looking to encourage drivers to take advantage of downtown parking garages.

“We’re not filling the parking garages up,” Goodwin said. “All three garages face Front Avenue, and Front is an 8-hour parking street. That’s not much of an incentive to use the garages.”

Goodwin said the study will likely lead to change, which often leads to some push-back from those affected. But those affected will get a chance to be involved, she said.

“We’re going to bring it to the stake-holders first,” Goodwin said. “Then, of course, Columbus Council has to approve whatever we decide.”