New parking stations frustrate Evanston residents, forcing city to change policies

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New parking stations frustrate Evanston residents, forcing city to change policies

A parking station in downtown Evanston. Residents expressed frustration with the new parking procedures.

A parking station in downtown Evanston. Residents expressed frustration with the new parking procedures.

Evan Robinson-Johnson/Daily Senior Staffer

A parking station in downtown Evanston. Residents expressed frustration with the new parking procedures.

Evan Robinson-Johnson/Daily Senior Staffer

Evan Robinson-Johnson/Daily Senior Staffer

A parking station in downtown Evanston. Residents expressed frustration with the new parking procedures.

Thea Showalter, Reporter

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After drivers expressed frustration with changes to the parking payment process in downtown Evanston, the city has begun exploring options to address their concerns.

Evanston residents and business owners have stated their displeasure with new city parking procedures, complaining of increased rates, unjust ticketing and trouble with Evanston’s new pay-to-park stations.

Starting March 1, the city raised the cost of parking at a 2-hour meter in downtown Evanston from $1 to $1.50 per hour and replaced 850 single space meters with 80 “parking stations” — blue boxes placed along streets where drivers enter their license number to pay for their parked vehicles.

Rodolfo Reyes, who delivers for Einstein Bros. Bagels, said he was given a ticket even after paying at one of the new stations to park in Evanston.

“An hour later, I come and check out my car, and I have a ticket, and I’m like, ‘Why?’ They said I didn’t pay for it. I did pay,” Reyes said, adding that he would appeal the ticket in court within the next week.

In response to concerns that these parking issues were affecting businesses and shoppers in the downtown area, the city held a Merchant Summit on April 10 to hear input from business owners.

Following the summit, the city decided to decrease the “lockout” period in between parking sessions that is introduced by the Park Evanston mobile app. Drivers can now pay for street parking in the same location multiple times a day, according to a news release from the city. The city is also looking into reducing the 35 cent fee the app charges users and extending its two-hour time limit for street and lot parking.

Evanston driver Doug Erickson, said that while he personally hadn’t had any negative experiences with the parking stations, the new system was “tricky” to pick up.

“When you’re used to just putting (money) into the meters there, you get comfortable doing that,” Erickson said. “It’s a little uncomfortable learning something new, and it’s somewhat high tech.”

Erickson added that the new system represents the modernization of culture and what he thinks is a movement toward a “surveillance state.”

Maribeth Allen, another Evanston driver, echoed these concerns, saying the machines are “tricky” to use.

“I don’t want to use my credit card for safety as much as anything,” she said. “I also think that (it’s) not just this machine, but the fact that there are so many different machines all over Evanston and different kinds of parking meters.”

Allen added that different areas of Evanston had different regulations for when parking fees are required. She said in areas with many restaurants and bars, parkers have to pay as late as 9 p.m., but in areas with more stores and day businesses, payment is only required until 6 p.m.

Allen said her main concern was the inconsistency across zoning and the lack of clarity as to where and when payment is required.

After it hiked fees in March, the city offered $5 off to drivers who elected to prepay their parking with Evanston’s mobile app. Some drivers, like Moha Mehta, have avoided using the pay boxes by using the app instead.

“It’s really easy,” Mehta said. “With a meter, you have to find change and I never have change. I like it because it’s faster and because if I’m going down the street from the meter I don’t have to run back to the meter to fill my parking.”

City staff will be providing an update on parking to City Council at its April 29 meeting.

Email: theashowalter2023@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @theashowalter

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