Columbus parking officials plan to change all downtown parking meters to 30-minute, three-hour or unlimited time, 50-cents-an-hour meters in February, after completing the city’s Strategic Parking Plan for four areas.
Downtown Columbus has 30-minute, two-hour, three-hour, six-hour and 12-hour meters with hourly rates that range from 40 cents to $1.
The plan would change that to:
• Meters with no time limit, with rates of 50 cents an hour, on the fringes of downtown.
• Three-hour meters with $1-an-hour rates.
• 30-minute meters with $1.50-an-hour rates, or 75 cents for a half-hour.
“It cleans things up,” said Robert Ferrin, the city’s assistant director for parking services.
The unlimited meters would run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The 30-minute and three-hour meters would run from 8 a.m. through 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
The city also plans to introduce the ParkColumbus smartphone app not only for metered spots, but also for on-street spaces where the city plans to eliminate 150 to 200 meters in the summer, Ferrin said. People would use the app to pay for those marked spaces.
The city already has implemented the app in the Short North and Arena District neighborhoods. Downtown has about 2,800 metered spaces.
Free spots downtown, such as the area east of Washington Avenue, will remain so, Ferrin said. The city plans to evaluate how the new system is working six months after implementing it.
City officials said they hope the plan would boost meter revenue which could be used to reduce parking fees for employees or find other transportation for them, such as shuttles. In 2018, total downtown parking revenue was close to $3 million.
Consultants hired by the city said downtown Columbus has more than 100,000 off-street and private parking spaces. The boundaries of the area studied are Interstate 670 on the north, Interstate 71 on the east, interstates 70 and 71 on the south and the Scioto River on the west.
The city parking plan says optimal on-street parking occupancy downtown should be 60% to 80%, with spots available so people do not have have to drive around long to look for parking spots.
Cleve Ricksecker, executive director of the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, said it is important to have turnover at meters.
He said restaurant owners and law firms have complained often there are no spaces near them because downtown employees plug meters every two or three hours because it’s so inexpensive.
But Ricksecker said he is skeptical that raising rates by 25 cents an hour at three-hour meters is enough to change those habits.
“I think it needs to be higher than a dollar to effect change,” he said.
But he also said three-hour meters are enough for people to go to restaurants or see downtown events.
Mark Dempsey, who owns Dempsey’s Food and Spirits at 346 S. High St., said he doesn’t like the 30-minute meters.
“It’s hard enough every two to three hours to get a long-term stay,” said Dempsey, who also is a board member for the Downtown Residents’ Association of Columbus.
He said the city also should extend metered-parking times because some overnight employees of downtown businesses park all night at meters, eliminating spots for late-night customers.