Columbia SC parking meter

Parking meters in downtown Columbia state they are enforced until 6 p.m., but in practice they have, for years, only been enforced until 5. Photo by Eva Moore

The City of Columbia has begun enforcing metered parking until 6 p.m. on weekdays.

According to text printed on the city's meters, parking is enforced 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. But for years, the city has only monitored parking in most of the city from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

But an email from the city's parking administrator says the city extended its enforcement hours effective June 1.

"The goal of Parking Services is to regulate the parking spaces in a manner that ensures that a percentage of spaces are available at any given time for short term parking," wrote administrator Elle Matney in the email, which was forwarded to downtown businesses by downtown property owners coalition City Center Partnership. "This is vital for maximizing the potential flow of customers to our retail and dining establishments. Additionally, controlling congestion and improving traffic circulation are becoming increasingly important."

The email does not address whether the city is considering Saturday enforcement.

Five Points has different enforcement hours from the rest of the city; the email does not address that area, either. Matney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Free Times reported a month ago that the city had done a test run of extended meter enforcement.

Mayor Steve Benjamin says Matney is shaking up the way Columbia handles parking.

"We have a brand new director of parking and I think we are going to see a great deal more innovation and efficiency in parking services, both in the way the department runs and in the advent of new technology," Benjamin said. "We'll give Elle and her team the resources and latitude to run the department. If something doesn't work, we'll do a reset and see what does work."

Chris Trainor contributed to this story.

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