City Council hears parking study suggesting raising parking rate


Photo Courtesy to Jacob Wendler

City Manager Luke Stowe recommends waiting for more information before taking any decision regarding parking.

Shannon Tyler, Assistant City Editor

A study investigating Evanston parking across the city and around Ryan Field concluded Evanston should raise its parking prices. 

City Council contracted engineering consulting company WGI to conduct the study in 2020, but it was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Results were presented to City Council on Tuesday night.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th), a proponent for raising parking meter prices and fines in Evanston, said parking fees provide money to help improve infrastructure. Reid supported an initiative to increase beach parking prices for non-Evanston residents in 2021. 

“This will help bring us in line with winnowing down on that subsidy and allocating that money to things that I think many of us would think are more important, such as our environmental sustainability initiatives,” Reid said. 

Currently, Evanston’s parking rates are low compared to similar sized cities including Portsmouth, N.H. and Columbus, Ohio, according to the study. WGI suggested the city could draw more revenue from Evanston drivers. 

WGI’s study proposed raising the hourly rate of parking, arguing the change could encourage higher car turnover in the downtown area, freeing up more parking. This could achieve a 10% to 20% parking spot vacancy rate and solve Evanston’s shortage of parking availability in high-demand areas, according to WGI engineer Ashley Orr. 

The study also recommended several solutions for the city to generate additional revenue from parking. WGI proposed raising the 12-hour parking zone price from $.50 to $1 and considering a dynamic parking price system that raises rates after a certain time threshold. 

Compared to its peer cities, Evanston has a much lower expired meter fine price at $25. But WGI Inc. manager Benjamin Sands said Evanston issues more parking tickets than its peer cities, and recommended raising the price of parking fines. 

“Increasing that fine amount does typically increase compliance with rules and regulations,” Sands said. 

One part of the study observed two game days in Evanston: the Northwestern-Iowa football game in 2021 and the NU-Indiana men’s basketball game in 2022. Researchers determined that although parking availability could be better, there is no problem on game days.

Orr said the company assessed the ability of emergency vehicles to pass through roads near Ryan Field and the amount of illegal parking on game days. 

Northwestern released plans Wednesday for an updated Ryan Field that will hold 12,000 fewer people. There is no mention of new car parking plans or car parking lots in the design. 

“Evanston does see a high demand for on-street spaces on its neighborhood streets during football games,” Orr said. “However, we did not experience or see any unsafe or inaccessible street conditions.” 

Resident Ken Proskie lives near Ryan Field and said he did not agree with the study’s determination on game day parking. Proskie said, in his 36 years living there, he has noticed a problem during NU games.

“I strongly disagree with the conclusion that Evanston does not have a game day parking problem; we do,” Proskie said. “Event parking routinely overflows and saturates residential areas, and it prevents many residents from parking near their homes even on small events.”  

Proskie said he thinks the study used too small of a sample size — only two games — to make their determination. 

City Manager Luke Stowe said no substantial decision on parking rates should be made until City Council reviews a city-sanctioned survey on the downtown district this winter.

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Twitter: @shannonmtyler

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