City Council votes to add $1 first-hour parking fee in city garages, excluding Sundays


Daily file photo by Nick Francis

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th). Nieuwsma moved an ordinance amendment during Monday’s meeting to keep Sunday parking free.

Aviva Bechky and Jorja Siemons

City Council voted unanimously to eliminate free parking for the first hour in city-owned garages Monday through Saturday at its Monday meeting. 

People will need to pay $1 for the first hour of garage parking starting Jan. 1. Previously, from Mondays through Saturdays people were not charged for their first hour parked in a city-owned garage. 

City staff originally requested the council also eliminate free parking on Sundays. Evanston could generate an additional $50,000 to $255,000 through charging for parking on Sundays, according to 2021 and 2019 figures respectively. 

During public comment, Annie Coakley, the executive director of Downtown Evanston, supported keeping Sunday parking free and opposed imposing fees for the first hour Monday through Saturday.

“The free one-hour parking and free parking on Sundays encourages visitors to downtown to support these local businesses,” Coakley said. “Most recently, we consistently hear that everyone is shopping and dining in Wilmette because they have free parking.”

Councilmembers discussed whether imposing a parking fee deters customers, or encourages quick turnover of parking spaces, which can allow more customers to shop. 

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) expressed concern about whether Evanston residents would need to pay for parking when attending Sunday religious services. She was unsatisfied by city staff proposals to offer validation or parking passes to churchgoers.

“I appreciate the creativity (of the proposals),” Fleming said, “But also, validating when you go to church sounds absurd to me.”

Since the city does not impose property taxes on places of worship, Ald. Devon Reid (8th) said charging Sunday parking fees could be a legitimate way to generate revenue. 

Reid also pointed out a need to pay for renovations to parking garages that are environmentally-focused.

“Actually having (parking staff and infrastructure) funded by the parking fund, as opposed to being kind of shifted out to various parts of the budget — I think that will make a lot of sense,” he said.

However, all of the councilmembers, including Reid, voted in favor of keeping Sunday parking free.

According to city staff, some of the parking funds will be put toward the city’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan, which aims to make the city carbon neutral by 2050. 

The Parking Service Division plans to increase electrical vehicle chargers and install bike fix-it stations and parking racks as part of CARP. Under this future fund implementation, two new electrical chargers would be added to 1800 Maple Self Park, and Church Street Self Park would have chargers for the first time.

The council passed another ordinance Monday night changing parking prices for some underutilized street meters from $2.00 an hour to $0.50, and increasing maximum parking time from two or four hours to 12.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @avivabechky

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @JorjaSiemons

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