Now that most of Evanston’s new parking meters that take credit cards have been installed, members of the city’s Transportation and Parking Committee brainstormed a bit this week about what other changes the new technology might bring.

While they took no action on any of the ideas, they discussed variable pricing, parking discounts and occupancy sensors.

Variable pricing for parking at high demand times. Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons suggested, as an example, that meters along Central Street might be set to charge more during Northwestern football games.

Committee member Hugh Bartling said there’s a trend in many fields to price according to demand. “With new technologies, that’s very easy to implement,” Bartling added.

Providing parking discounts or passes to city residents. Alderman Melissa Wynne, the committee chair, suggested only charging non-residents for parking under some circumstances. And Lyons suggested that residents who paid using their cell phone might get a discount.

Within a couple of months the city plans to let Metra commuters pay for parking from their seat on the train using their cell phones.

Occupany sensors. The city considered, but didn’t include sensors embedded in the pavement to track car movements as part of this year’s meter upgrade.

“We thought that was a little too big-brotherish,” Wynne said. And there was also concern about whether those sensors would stand up to snowplows and other winter weather challenges.

But Parking Division Manager Rickey Voss said, “The technology is advancing so fast that you no longer have to put them in the ground. You can have infrared sensors mounted on the meters instead.”

That might address an issue raised by Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, who said she’s gotten complaints recently that contractors working on construction projects in the 600 block of Davis Street and workers in the 1600 block of Orrington Avenue “are coming out and sticking their credit cards in meters and parking there all day.”

In other business, the committee:

  • Rejected the idea of a new valet parking or loading zone on Davis Street for the North Shore Hotel’s Crystal Ballroom. Committee members concluded it would would create too much congestion and said the hotel should be able to make use of its existing canopied driveway on Chicago Avenue instead.
  • Approved extending meter hours on Howard Street near recently opened restaurants to 9 p.m. Voss said with the current 6 p.m. end to meter payments, drivers parked on the Chicago side of Howard move over to the Evanston side as soon as Evanston’s meter enforcement ends. The new plan would let people park for up to four hours, instead of two, after 5 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Parking meters

    Why are these new meters rejecting my debit card, which I often use as a credit card?  When rejected, I have to dig for a real credit card to pay.  This has happened several times.  I have no problem using my debit card in Chicago.  Please fix the meters so they accept debit cards!

  2. Parking Meters

    The suggestion that Central Street meters should cost more during Northwestern football games is another example of how inhospitable and obnoxious we can be to guests.  I live in northwest Evanston, but would rather welcome guests to my neighborhood cordially.  Let's set an example of civility instead of figuring out how to gouge visitors. Maybe that would encourage visitors to shop in our stores, eat at our restaurants and do something advantageous for Evanston.

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