With on-street parking rates scheduled to jump again next year, Evanston officials this week were unable to answer key questions about the impact of this year’s rate hike on parking services in the city.

In addition to being sold as a way to solve a city budget deficit, this year’s increase from $1 to $1.50 per hour for on-street metered parking was promoted as demand-based pricing, designed to encourage more shoppers to use the city’s three downtown parking garages — which many shoppers find less convenient than on-street parking.

Rates in the garages vary widely — from free for less than 60 minutes to almost $2 per hour for drivers who end up on the wrong side of an hourly rate cutoff point. But many shoppers parking in a city garage now would pay less than they would for the same time at an on-street meter, despite an upward adjustment in garage rates at the first of the year.

The meter rate increase was also described as intended to open up some metered spaces for shoppers who complain it’s frequently impossible to find an on-street parking spot without repeatedly circling blocks waiting for a space to open up.

The increase has definitely had a favorable impact on revenue. The proposed 2020 city budget says charges for parking services rose from $6.3 million in 2018 to a projected $9.6 million for his year — an increase of more than 50 percent.

But when Evanston Now late last week asked for a breakdown of revenue to show how much change there’s been in meter revenue, garage revenue and other parking revenue sources, Interim City Manager Erika Storlie said that information was not readily available.

And so far she’s been unable to provide a timeline for providing that information — or other data that might indicate whether the higher rates have driven customers away from some shopping districts — as claimed by some merchants earlier this year.

Some aldermen have raised questions about the merits of going through with the scheduled increase in on-street parking rates to $2 an hour next year, but it’s not clear whether the issue will be raised at Saturday’s 9 a.m. City Council public hearing on the budget.

With the rate hike anticipated to bring in an additional $3.2 million in new revenue next year, it would open up a huge hole in the city budget if the rate increase is rejected.

Related stories

Parking changes advance amid calls for city-wide study (4/30/19)

Merchants decry ‘predatory’ parking enforcement (4/25/19)

Aldermen start rearranging budget pieces (10/30/18)

What you’ll pay Evanston more for in 2019 (10/5/18)

Staff: Parking rate hikes could eliminate budget deficit (7/29/18)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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