Plan Calls for Wide Range of Fixes for Short North Parking Woes
The City of Columbus is hopeful that a multi-faceted approach will satisfy the many residents, employees, business owners and visitors to the Short North who have issues with the current state of parking in the bustling urban neighborhood.
A long list of recommendations – the result of nearly a year of data-gathering, neighborhood meetings, interviews and surveys – was presented in December by the team of consultants brought on to complete the Short North Parking Study.
Patti Austin of the city’s Department of Public Service stressed that there is plenty of work to be done before the plan is implemented.
“Nothing is set in stone… we are still considering everyone’s comments, and a lot of them have to do with implementation,” she said. “There will be a lot more discussion as we work through the details.”
She added that early February should see the release of a draft implementation plan, which will include a financial analysis and changes made to the recommendations based on stakeholder comments.
The main recommendations of the study call for:
- Implementing a form of demand-based pricing, meaning that the most desirable parking will cost the most – a high-demand zone south of Second Avenue would cost $1.50/hour from 6pm to midnight (and 75 cents from 10am to 6pm). A secondary-demand zone farther afield would be 75 cents.
- Adding metered spaces on High Street by consolidating some COTA stops and shortening spaces.
- Looking into the possibility of a shared valet program – one 60-foot zone every two or three blocks would provide a standardized service for all of the businesses in the area. The city currently issues permits for the companies that provide valet services for individual businesses in the neighborhood.
- Simplifying residential permit areas, which currently are a hodgepodge of restrictions based on which blocks have taken the initiative to gather signatures and establish a permit zone. The proposed system would of feature four zones – Harrison West, Victorian Village, Italian Village West, and Italian Village East – in addition to a High Street commercial zone.
- Implementing a series of improvements meant to encourage more pedestrian, bike and transit use in the neighborhood.
- Adding options for employee parking and incentives for workers to use alternative modes of transportation.
- Continuing to work with private developers to encourage the inclusion of public parking in new mixed-use projects (and possibly including a fee-in-lieu of parking option if a developer is not able to provide parking).
- Reworking zoning code requirements for parking in the neighborhood.
Austin emphasized the comprehensive nature of the recommendations – they are designed to work together to tackle the issues from every angle.
“The placement of new meters could physically happen first,” she said, by way of example, “but you don’t want to raise the price of meters and not have addressed employee parking.”
According to a survey done as part of the study, 80 percent of employees in the district drive to work, and nearly half park within a block of their workplace.
“If the other things are in place to handle that (the plan suggests reduced COTA passes, free COGO memberships, expanding CBUS hours, and/or remote parking with shuttle buses), then we can go on to the other parts of the plan,” Austin said. “It’s really intricate – really hard to implement part of it and not all of it – which is why the implementation plan is so important.”
The city is confident that the wide-ranging recommendations are what’s needed, even if implementation will take some time.
“It’s complicated, but it’s the right thing to do because it gives us the best solution,” Austin said. “Our consultant is always saying that the wrong solution is to simply build more public garages – that’s the most expensive and least flexible option… you can’t move a garage five blocks to the north when the demand for parking shifts.”
The primary consultant on the project, the San Francisco-based Nelson/Nygaard, will be busy in Columbus over the course of the next year; they have been tapped by the city to work on the upcoming Multi-Modal Thoroughfare Plan, and by COTA to lead their Next Generation planning efforts.
For more information on the Short North Parking Study, see www.columbus.gov.
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