Evanston Alderman Coleen Burrus told the city’s Parking Committee Wednesday that she found a great idea about parking on a trip to Laguna Beach, Calif.

Evanston Alderman Coleen Burrus told the city’s Parking Committee Wednesday that she found a great idea about parking on a trip to Laguna Beach, Calif.

We can’t import the weather, but how about the parking plan? (City of Laguna Beach photo.)

Burrus, 9th Ward, says that in the ocean-front town, residents can buy what’s called a shopper parking permit that lets them park at a shopping district meter without having to feed it.

Parkers are still limited to the posted meter time limits, and the permits are not valid in some areas of town.

In Laguna Beach the permits are good for two years and cost $80 each for the first two cars and $150 for a third and fourth car per household.

Parking committee members seemed to think it was a great idea, but of course, this being Evanston, the talk immediately turned to much higher fees for a permit — like $200 a year.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she imagines she puts more than $200 a year into parking meters and, “there should be a discount (for the permits), but I don’t want it discounted by half.”

Burrus said it could be a good will gesture by the city for residents, without reducing city revenues.

Parking Committee member Dave Galloway said he thought it was an interesting idea, but wondered whether it would discourage other good habits. “I’m trying to walk and bike downtown more,” Galloway said, “and part of the incentive is the money saved not paying for parking, and the time saved not having to look for a space.”

Committee member Paul Giddings said, “I have no idea how much I spend a year on parking. But philosophically for the citizens it’s a perk worth studying.”

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jonathan Perman said, “It’s a great idea that could be tied to some other kinds of loyalty incentives” that might be offered by local businesses.

The committee took no formal action on the proposal but agreed to seek more information on how such a plan might be implemented and the best pricing strategy.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. I agree with Dave Galloway.
    I agree with Dave Galloway. Part of the purpose of pay as you go parking is to reduce congestion and petroleum consumption. Stick to meters.

  2. $200 per year seems expensive
    $200 per year seems expensive. I know I do not spend anywhere near that much on parking in Evanston – especially since Sundays are free. Everyone will have to do the math for themselves though.

    As a comparison –

    I pay $120 per year for a Lincoln Park Zoo membership which allows me to park for 6 hours at a time at no charge. I use it on weekends when I want to run on the lakefront path. I also like to park at the Zoo and walk downtown. For me it’s a great deal. An Evanston parking permit at $200 would not be.

  3. What’s the great idea?
    What issue are we trying to address by allowing residents to get a sticker that keeps them from having to pay the meters every time? I suppose the perception is that people are not shopping downtown because they have to pay meters and if they pay in advance for a sticker, they’ll drive, park, and shop more often? I don’t think that’s a real issue. People don’t avoid downtown because they have to pay $0.75/hr to park at a meter so that they can drive to Old Orchard and deal with that parking mess for free. People come to downtown Evanston because of the attractive mix and selection of shops, restaurants, the movies, EAC, and the atmosphere. I’ve never decided to not go to Borders or Barnes & Noble or Panera downtown, but went to Old Orchard instead because I didn’t want to feed a meter.

    Anyways, I can see one benefit to the permit… maybe 2.

    – You don’t have to carry around coins to feed the meters. That would be a nice convenience.
    – As Mr. Perman suggested, it’s another opportunity for businesses to incorporate loyalty incentives. (Although, you can support downtown businesses by taking transit, biking, or walking too. This way may reward those who only drive/park.)

    – It’s much more difficult to enforce time limits when you don’t have to feed the meter.
    – This discourages turnover… essentially every resident with a sticker gets the maximum time limit each time they park because they don’t pay each use. If you have to feed the meter, you are more likely pay for what you are going to use, then be on your way. With a permit, you’re more likely to take your time and be parked for longer time periods. (Some businesses may look at that as more time to shop. However, I look at it like there’s a space that could’ve opened up for another shopper to use instead of this person hogging it and taking their time.)
    – The main reason to have parking meters is to help regulate use of parking spaces. If there are no spaces available, the rate should be higher. If there are too many spaces available, the rate should be lower. If there’s no cost/use of spaces each time, then you aren’t directly impacted by the meter rate. Depending on what the permit cost is, you may be indirectly impacted.
    – It may encourage more people to drive, to make sure they get their money’s worth, rather than walk or take transit downtown.

    If we want to issue a permit for parkers, one alternative might be to issue permits for parking in the garages. That may encourage people to park in the garages more often (if they’ve already paid for it as a permit) rather than circulating around the block looking for a space. That keeps the high-demand, high-turnover on-street spaces available under the regulation of meter rates. I’m not sure there is much demand for that though. It’s still cheaper to park on the streets than in the garages now. Shopper garage permits would have to be heavily discounted to make them more attractive than parking on Sherman, Clark, Benson, and Davis.

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