Columbia, MO aims to get parking right

Downtown Columbus, MO Notley Hawkins PhotographyBroadway in downtown Columbia, MO , where parking is sometimes tough to come by. Photo courtesy of Notley Hawkins Photography

Columbia, MO has a state university in the heart of downtown, and its 35,000 students keep the small city bustling. So bustling, in fact, that neighborhood residents and people who drive downtown often find parking at a premium or tough to come by.

How to accommodate the ebb and flow of parking demand in the city has been a source of contention for neighborhood residents, and a growing concern for downtown business owners. Columbia’s City Council decided to bring in some help on the issues and last year, they applied for and won one of Smart Growth America’s free technical assistance workshops.

“Downtown parking has been an issue of considerable community concern for us,” said Council Member Michael Trapp. “Taking a comprehensive look at it with the help of outside experts seemed like a really good next step.”

On September 22 and 23, 2015, Jim Charlier, President of Charlier Associates, and Elizabeth Schilling, Smart Growth America’s Deputy Director of Policy Development and Implementation, went to Columbia to hold a Parking Audit workshop. The two-day session provided an overview of why it’s so important for communities to get parking right, and what Columbia can do to make the most of its parking assets.

Columbia residents, City staff, and City Council members came together on the workshop’s first day to talk about parking issues in Columbia. On the following day, Schilling and Charlier lead a workshop for local stakeholders, including representatives from Pednet, the City Council, city staff, downtown businesses and landlords, Central Missouri Community Action, the University of Missouri, neighborhood associations, the Downtown Leadership Council, and the Community Improvement District. Over six hours, participants considered data from the parking audit conducted by city staff, and considered different approaches to parking management that could serve the diverse needs of downtown businesses, the University, landlords, and neighborhood residents. Participants discussed topics and tactics ranging from bolstering communications between the City and the University of Missouri, to creating neighborhood parking permits, to implementing innovative mobile technologies and expanding transit service.

Learn more about this workshop in the materials below. Progress reports from the Columbia project will be posted here in the future.

Workshop materials:

Columbia, MO is one of the many technical assistance workshops Smart Growth America has done over the past four years. Read more about our other workshops, held in communities from Hawaii to Maine, that are made possible through a five-year Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities, which seeks to develop local planning solutions that help communities grow in ways that benefit families and businesses, while protecting the environment and preserving a sense of place.

Technical assistance