Fall Rollout Planned for Latest Short North Parking Proposals
Another round of public meetings are planned to explain and gather feedback about the latest Short North parking proposals from the City of Columbus. If that sounds familiar, it’s because a similar process was followed in 2015 and in 2017 – plans were unveiled and feedback was gathered, but few changes were actually implemented.
Robert Ferrin, who was hired last fall as the city’s first Assistant Director for Parking Services, has a message for anyone skeptical that the result will be any different this time – trust him, he’s been through this before.
Ferrin helped to implement a comprehensive parking plan in Aurora, Colorado, and before that oversaw on-street parking programs in Denver.
“No matter where you go, people are passionate about parking…it’s a daily thing that directly affects your quality of life, so that’s understandable,” he said. “What I’ve been impressed with (in Columbus), is how strong the neighborhood groups are and how engaged the public is…people are still willing to come the table on this issue.”
That passion has played out on Facebook and neighborhood email groups, as residents weigh in on the latest plans, which are outlined on the city’s website and will be explained in detail at a public meeting this evening (6 p.m. at the at the Greater Columbus Convention Center).
Many residents are not happy about the proposed cost for a parking permit ($100 a year, which includes guest parking) and are worried about increased competition for spots from visitors to the neighborhood.
Ferrin and his team have been monitoring the online discussions and tallying the comments that have already been submitted to the city.
“What we’re hearing most so far is about the time limits, especially within the neighborhood…and a desire for more protection for permit holders later in the evening, and that’s where we’ll likely end up modifying the plan,” he said. “This is a draft plan, we put it out knowing that we were absolutely going to modify it.”
Two feedback sessions are scheduled for the convention center; the first on Saturday, April 7 at 8:30 a.m., the second on Tuesday, April 10 at 8 a.m.
Modifications will be made to the plan based on all of the feedback received, and a new final plan will be presented at a public meeting on May 10, with implementation scheduled to begin in November.
“When we implement in the fall, it’s not going to be right; we will need to update and change it…the Short North will never be ‘done,'” he said. “So we will use data to monitor, and we’ll make changes to meet a goal of on-street occupancy of 60 to 80 percent, and we’ll do it every three months – we’re not going to just put it in and walk away.”
Ferrin said that the latest plan is meant to be simpler to understand than previous iterations; the number of different zones has been reduced and the recommendations grouped into broad categories. It also is different in that the city has now concluded that most of the recommended changes can be implemented without changing city code (so City Council approval will not be required).
One element of the plan would require a code change, though; the establishment of a benefit district, where revenue generated by the new parking rules could be fed back into transit and other mobility improvements for the neighborhood.
That could include a shuttle program, where Short North employees would be incentivized to park in underutilized Downtown garages in the evening – they could take the CBUS north at the beginning of their shift, and then get an on-demand shuttle back Downtown after hours. Another possible use of the funds would be an employee bus pass program, similar to one being rolled out for Downtown workers this summer, or even paying COTA to increase the frequency of the lines that run currently through the neighborhood.
“COTA has great service, but how do we break down barriers and get more people on the bus?” Ferrin asked. “That’s a win-win for everybody.”
For more information, see www.columbus.gov.