USC is adding more than 1,500 parking spaces near downtown Columbia. Here’s where

On any given day, state politicians, business owners and local residents in downtown Columbia are joined by more than 35,000 students and thousands of faculty and staff members who flock to the University of South Carolina’s campus.

Of these, the majority live off-campus. The university estimates about 70% of students live in the surrounding community, and many drive to get to campus.

The daily car invasion creates a demand for parking services, leaving some to drive for blocks to find a vacant space. The university says it’s planning some relief — about 1,500 spaces will be added by the end of this summer.

Reedy Newton, USC’s student body president, explained to the school’s board of trustees on March 17 that students have to “hunt and fight” for a parking spot before walking across campus to their classes. She shared the story of a senior nursing student who pays to park in the Bull Street garage. On her way to class, she went there to park. It was full. She drove to the Pendleton Street garage. It was full. She drove around campus for an hour before she missed her class.

“This is not an unusual testimony for our students,” Newton said. “I am concerned that these pressures will continue to get worse.”

In the coming months, residential parking will be added to the Horizon garage on the corner of Assembly and Wheat streets. Commuter student parking will be added at the Discovery garage on the corner of College and Park streets.

A surface lot just west of Gadsden Street near Colonial Life Arena will host both commuter and residential spots.

Some additional parking will help to serve the upcoming residential community Campus Village. The university plans to expand a surface lot near Flora Street, and more than 200 short-term parking spaces are slotted to be added at an area near Pickens Street.

Campus Village, located at the south end of campus and one of the largest student housing projects undertaken in South Carolina, is set to be the home of 1,800 students in the fall. Nearby neighbors were concerned after plans for a parking garage with almost 950 spaces adjacent to the development were scrapped in favor of a much smaller “transportation hub.”

As of December 2020 USC had approximately 12,000 parking spots. By February 2023 it had just over 13,600, which was already more than the 13,300 spaces the university planned for by the end of the 2023 fiscal year.

These new parking options will bring its total spaces to more than 15,000 by the time students return to campus in fall 2023, which doesn’t include additional metered city parking and residential and housing parking near campus. The university expects to add even more in the near future.

USC says it will continue to encourage shuttle services and pedestrian routes as alternative methods of commuting.