In Columbia, more permits than parking garage spaces

Buyers of monthly parking permits in Columbia may be surprised to learn their permit may not guarantee them a parking spot.

The Columbia Department of Public works admits to selling hundreds more parking garage permits than there are actually parking spaces for.

"The truth is, all of the parking permits and reserved spaces at all the garages downtown are sold," said Steven Sapp of the Columbia Public Works. "And not only are they sold, but as is practiced across the country, we actually oversell several of the garages by a certain percentage."

"That percentage can range anywhere from about five to 10 percent," Sapp said.

That means for the city's 2,012 parking garage spaces, the city has sold around 200 extra parking permits.

Although the garages may not always be full, all six within the city have waiting lists for permit buyers. The Short Street garage, which just opened last week, has a waiting list 200 deep.

Some people remain unsettled by the fact that a paying customer still has no guarantee of finding a place to park.

Only the costliest permit, which costs $115 per month, guarantees a 'reserved' parking spot. The other types of permits, which cost $65 to $75, guarantee garage access but do not ensure that a permit holder will get a place to park.

"I think it's a big challenge, actually. When I used to live here, I used to park in this garage and found the issue where I had a permit and no place to park," said former Columbia resident Andrea Powell.

However, there is a limit in place to how many permits are sold. Sapp says the Department of Public Works wants to hear from anyone who has experienced this problem.

"We encourage them to reach out to us," Sapp said. "We are here to serve them, and we certainly don't want people going without parking when they have paid to get that."

"Our parking utility can be very helpful when it comes to this, as far as making other arrangements for them on that day, or evaluating the situation and trying to come up with some solutions."