COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Columbia has many popular night time spots, including the Five Points District, the Vista and Main Street that offer food, clothing stores, activities, and nightlife. But if you are planning to park at one of these spots after dark, you may need to bring some extra change to feed the parking meter.
The City of Columbia is considering extending the hours during which you have to pay metered spots.
Officials said the change is in response to people parking in the free spots and leaving their cars for the night. They said their new plan to extend the meters from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. would change this.
“We want to make sure people who want to go patronize have a place to park so it’s easy for them to get to those locations,” Assistant City Manager for Development Missy Gentry said.
Parking services presented the plan to City Council last week and received their support. Gentry said the city will test the plan in the Five Points district first.
“I think that would help parking meters do what they are designed to do which is to move people in and out of the parking spaces rather than parking for a long time,” Councilman Howard Duvall said.
If the city moves forward with the plan, the meters would start at nine in the morning and end at nine at night Monday through Saturday.
“This was really in response to one of our hospitality districts asking for some changes so we looked at what our parking rules are city-wide and looked at some opportunities to bring consistency across the city,” Gentry said.
Duvall said businesses in Five Points requested the new hours.
“What happens is the employees that are working in the restaurants and bars come in at 5 o’clock and pay for an hour and then stay until the end of the night, we have the same problem with the students,” Duvall said.
However, many customers in Five Points said they are unhappy about the new plan.
“I think it’s arcane that they are extending the hours and nick and diming us to death…when we are coming down here to patronize these businesses and spend our hard-earned money…that we are already getting taxed on,” Jack Ziegler, a Columbia resident, said.
Natalie Mello, a student at South Carolina, said she thinks it’s still going to be tough to find a parking spot.
“I think that the students aren’t going to like it, and they are going to find out by getting parking tickets,” Mello said.
City officials said that this plan brings the city more in line with other cities’ policies.
“We’re behind the scale as far as how other cities are managing to park well into the evening, it’s a good problem to have, people downtown at night, we just need to manage and making sure the spaces are available for the businesses,” Gentry said.
Charleston’s meter spots charge until 10 at night. However, city officials said they plan to get feedback from both customers and businesses as they move forward with the new plan.
“We want our city to be lively and we are excited about what’s happening and we don’t want to be a deterrent to that,” Gentry said.
City officials said that the extra revenue will be reinvested in the parking system, possibly for new technology like credit card meters in the future.
They also said they don’t need a vote from City Council to move forward with the plan.
If the city decides to move forward with the plan, there is no set timeline for when the new parking will go into effect or when it might roll out to other areas beyond Five Points.