City Council debates extending lakefront parking fees into yearlong program


Daily file photo by Catherine Buchaniec

Beachgoers at Clark Street Beach. A pilot program starting in August implemented parking fees at certain streets and lots near the lakefront for non-Evanston vehicles.

Alex Harrison, Reporter

City Council debated Monday whether to extend a pilot program implementing parking fees along the lakefront into a yearlong initiative.

The pilot program was approved by council on July 26 and began on Aug. 2. It requires vehicles without a current-year Evanston wheel tax payment to pay $3 per hour to park on designated streets and in parking lots along the lakefront. The program is slated to end on Oct. 31. 

The proposed extension would establish seasonal rates of $3 per hour from April to October and $0.50 per hour from November to March. It would also add new locations to the program, including sections of Lake Shore Boulevard, Kedzie Street and Sheridan Road.
Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) opposed the extension, citing resident complaints and expressing concerns about parking fees’ effect on beachfront tourism. She asked Michael Rivera, interim division manager for parking, if he could provide more analysis of the program’s economic effects, including how many parking tickets resulted from lakefront spots and lots.

“Especially at this time, we really need to make Evanston a welcoming destination, and I think this throws a bit of a wrench into that,” Kelly said. “I don’t really see a cost-benefit analysis, not only for the pilot but also a five-year projection.”

Rivera told councilmembers the program generated over $81,000 in revenue between Aug. 2 and Oct. 10. A six-month implementation is projected to raise an additional $220,000 to $240,000. Rivera committed to providing a memo with additional information before the next council meeting. 

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) said he supports the program, and would like to see it expanded to include Evanston-registered vehicles. 

The resulting revenue could fully replace what’s currently raised annually by residential beach tokens, Reid said. Eliminating the tokens entirely would result in a $1 million revenue gap, Lawrence Hemingway, Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department director said at a May 26 council meeting.

“We had our proposed budget released today, and we’re looking to cover the cost of keeping our commitment that we made last summer to make beaches free,“ Reid said. “If we were to include in-town residents, we could cover the cost of making the beaches free for all Evanstonians.”

The council passed a May 24 resolution to open free beach access to residents on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. This was in response to historians and advocates who campaigned for daily free access, saying beach admissions fees constitute a city effort to block marginalized residents from enjoying Evanston’s beaches. 

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) said she is “philosophically opposed” to the program, arguing that charging residents and visitors to park along the lakefront creates undue barriers to enjoying lakefront access.

“The lake is not ours, we’re the stewards of it,” Wynne said. “Our recreation areas should be open and available and not have any barriers to them.”

The ordinance passed introduction 6-3, with Kelly, Wynne and Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) opposing. It is scheduled for a final vote on Oct. 25.

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