When driving in downtown Columbia, especially during rush hours, it’s common to see huge semi-trucks pulled in the middle of the street. These are trucks that deliver food and liquor to restaurants and bars. Drivers have to merge to the oncoming lane to bypass the trucks. However, this is dangerous because they can’t see anything in front of them. If there are people crossing the streets or if the car in the oncoming lane is driving fast, it will cause accidents.
Delivery trucks have parked downtown for the past 30 years. However, this has recently become an issue because of the increase in businesses.
“As Columbia has grown, there are more and more business and people,” said Ben Wade, a member of the Downtown Leadership Council. “It didn’t use to be a problem because it didn’t really cause any congestion.”
The DLC has discussed this issue many times. The council wrote a letter to the Parking and Traffic Management Task Force in 2016 to ask for a discussion about the delivery trucks. They also suggested a city ordinance that would prohibit delivery trucks parking over the lunch hour. At their August 2017 meeting, the DLC members drafted a letter to the Columbia City Council and asked for a study of the delivery truck issue. They thought a permanent Parking and Transportation Management Commission should conduct these investigations. The council hasn’t responded to any of these letters yet.
“I don’t know if the city has already started the study,” DLC Chair Scott Wilson said. “My thinking right now is that they may be waiting to appoint the permanent Parking and Transportation Management Commission and they will assign this issue to that commission.”
Almost every city will have delivery trucks coming in downtown areas and Columbia is not alone. But things are more difficult in Columbia because there aren’t any rules dealing with the issue of parking.
“There are a lot of people involved, the restaurant owners, the bar owners, the delivery companies, people that live in downtown. It’s not something you can just eliminate or change,” Wade said. “It affects a lot of people. So I think the city has to be careful about how they respond so that no particular group gets upset or left out.”
Some restaurants are making their own rules of delivery, and Addison’s is one of them. Adam Dushoff, the owner of Addison’s, said they require the delivery company to come at a certain time, either before 11 a.m. or after 1:30 p.m.
“We require our delivery people to come at a certain time, not necessarily to alleviate the traffic on the streets or to make any difference there, but to make sure they don’t get in the way of our guests coming into the restaurant,” Dushoff said.
From a personal perspective, Dushoff said he doesn’t think the delivery truck parking downtown is dangerous because no accident has ever occurred, it just causes inconvenience.
“I believe that there is a situation where unintended consequences of doing a change could be catastrophic on some business,” Dushoff said.
But as one of the members of the Downtown Community Improvement District, he said there’s room for improvement and the members would like to talk about it.
Major Brands, a beverage distributor in Columbia, sends its delivery truck downtown four days a week. Tony Perri, an assistant at Major Brands, said most of his delivery people are doing a great job of not congesting the road, but there can be improvements.
“I think eliminating having more than two trucks stopped on the street would help,” Perri said. “If they can’t pull off in a normal place just go around and do other stops.”