Downtown Parking Plan advances
In just over two years since adoption of the Downtown Parking Management Plan, the City has made significant progress. Of 31 recommended actions for new parking policies and management strategies, over 20 strategies have been completed, are ongoing, or have begun to enhance and support downtown by addressing pressure on the seasonally constrained parking supply.
The year-long comprehensive downtown parking study examined on- and off-street parking supply, evaluated requirements for additional parking, and established alternatives to meet current and future needs. The schedule for phased parking system projects is flexible based on resources and opportunities. It’s meant to address congestion in the immediate, short-term, mid-term and long-term.
“In the context of a two-year work cycle, not to mention a global pandemic, this represents a significant investment in City resources and is worth celebrating,” said Planning Director Dustin Nilsen. “Again, special thanks to the parking task force committee members for their time and contributions, and to our local officials and staff who’ve worked to advance this project.”
When the Parking Plan was adopted in January 2020, guiding principles were accepted. A “85% Rule,” a parking industry standard, was put into effect to measure performance of parking supply and as a trigger for management strategies. This operating principle means that when occupancy rates routinely reach 85% in the peak hour, more serious parking management strategies are called for. “Capacity” is defined as parking combined with alternative modes of transportation (such as public transportation, cycling and walking).
Completed Parking Management Plan projects, include:
- Three Pay-by-App options offered as an alternative to physical meters and pay stations.
- On-street parking permit program for off-season and lower occupancy areas approved, while discontinuing the all-season on-street permit.
- Calibrated off-street parking lot pricing based on demand.
- Fee-in-lieu policy for new commercial and residential downtown properties modified.
- Free park-and-ride at Wasco Loop via CAT partnership and fixed route transit.
In-progress Parking Management Plan projects include:
- Converting more coin-only meters to multiple payment-type pay stations.
- Partnered with Columbia Area Transit (CAT) for a pilot program that provided free bus passes for all downtown employees during the summer of 2021. The program’s effectiveness is being evaluated and may become permanent in future years.
Upcoming Parking Management Plan projects include:
- Transitioning to license plate-based parking permits to allow for online permit purchase, renewal, and plastic waste reduction.
- Evaluating alternatives for expanded capacity, either through surface lot acquisition or structured parking on existing City property.
A guiding principle of the adopted Parking Management Plan is that the cost of new supply or capacity must be shared fairly among all who benefit from the parking system. This includes the City, new and existing developments, and users such as businesses, employees, and customers.
The Downtown Parking Study was guided by Rick Williams Consulting, parking and transportation specialists, with assistance from Fehr & Peers on the impacts of technology on future needs. An ad hoc committee, made of up downtown business owners, property owners, maintenance officials and city councilors, worked to define the scope of the study, help select consultants, and participated in efforts.
Addressing parking challenges is particularly important to the City as it continues to experience growth in both development and tourism. Changing the landscape for parking supply and demand supports community goals for housing and livability.