Proposal would extend parking meter hours

Susan Daker

The Evanston Parking Committee proposed Tuesday to extend parking meter enforcement hours to generate additional revenue in an effort to close the city’s nearly $4 million budget gap.

Employees and patrons of Evanston businesses may be required to feed meters between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. under the proposal. Current meter enforcement hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The committee also proposed increasing the fine for expired meters.

Evanston could earn $242,000 in revenue for next year, said David Jennings, director of public works. The parking committee proposed the change of meter enforcement hours as a potential alternative to a 1 percent sales tax on all food and beverages served in Evanston, said Ald. Steven Bernstein (4th).

The committee hopes the extension of enforcement hours will eliminate the practice of employees who either feed the meter or move their car every two hours. This practice hurts Evanston businesses, and customers should have priority in parking, Bernstein said.

Troy Thiel, a member of the parking committee, said people will continue to feed the meters and Evanston may lose business because of the extension of hours. He said the city and the Evanston Chamber of Commerce should examine alternative parking options for employees.

Customers at Evanston restaurants might be negatively affected by the extension in hours to 9 p.m. if they are required to interrupt their meal to feed the meter or move their car, said Jonathan Perman, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. Restaurant owners are in favor of an extension in hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., because that would cause less inconvenience to customers, he said.

If the proposal is adopted, the city would reexamine its effect on businesses after a year, said Ald. Arthur Newman (1st).

Newman said the extension is a better alternative for restaurant owners than the sales tax, but that the extension still would hurt.

“Nobody wants to be extending these meters if we don’t have to,” Newman said.

But city officials and residents have expressed interest in saving many city-funded programs, and the council must find ways to generate revenue, he said.

JoAnn Teagen, an Evanston resident and employee in downtown Evanston, said the city does not provide enough incentive to stop feeding the meters. Although she wants small businesses in Evanston to prosper, she still feeds the meters because she does not receive a discount to use a parking garage, she said.

Newman said the city cannot afford to give people discounts on parking garages, but Teagen said after the meeting she was still not convinced to use the garages.

“I feel like I’m an ignored entity here,” Teagen said.