Evanston aldermen this week voiced support for staff plans to equip parking enforcement officers with cameras and computer equipment that can read license plates to tell who’s overstayed their welcome in a parking space.

Parking System Manager Rickey Voss says the systems are extensively used by communities across the country, including Chicago, Downers Grove and Oak Park.

Voss said one target of the system would be the 6,000 or so cars in town that are “boot-eligible” because their owners have too many unpaid parking tickets.

He said in a test the camera system spotted five boot-eligible vehicles in 40 minutes. “It would take over eight hours to do that manually now,” Voss added.

Top: The dual eyes of infrared cameras from one vendor, ELSAG North America, whose equipment the city is considering. Above: A camera-equipped police car cruising a parking lot.

Voss said that plans are to start by equipping two parking enforcement vehicles with the camera systems at a cost of about $100,000.

He said that, assuming aldermen approve, he hopes to have the cameras in operation by next March and that he believes the system will pay for itself within a year.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, she supports the idea of purchasing the equipment “100 percent,” although she added that she believes the city’s biggest problem is with collection of the fines on parking tickets it already issues.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said that plans to hire a collection agency to go after unpaid fines are already in the proposed budget for next year.

An ELSAG diagram showing how the cameras connect to an on-board computer system.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, asked about how much the city gets when it boots a car.

Voss responded that the city charges a $125 boot fee, of which the tow company that boots the car gets $75. But the owner of the booted car also has to pay for all of the outstanding parking tickets before the boot is removed, and the city keeps all the revenue from the tickets.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said the technology does seem intrusive, but it means the city would get money that its already owed but can’t capture now.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, asked whether the new technology might make it possible to let residents buy a pass that would let them park at meters without having to feed them, and Voss said that should be possible eventually.

Voss also suggested that in the future the city could equip its street sweeping machines with the cameras, which could elminate a lot of claims that “the sweeper had already been by” when someone parked in a restricted zone on a street cleaning day.

The city has been considering acquiring such technology since the spring of 2010, and officials also see it as a way to eliminate the need to physically distribute city parking and registration stickers in future years.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Parking Enforcement Cameras

    Well Hello Big Brother…

    I will admit that I feel that parking enforcement is a necessary evil in certain areas of Evanston… but, I am very curious about the cost/benefit of all this effort.  Revenue received minus all the personnel + their salaries + healthcare and other benefits (let's not forget the 800 pound Gorrila – their pensions) = what at the end of the day?

    Add in the cost of new equipment and what is the net?

    Anyone got the data on this?

    Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas

  2. This is just ridiculous!  I

    This is just ridiculous!  I am outraged as a TAX PAYING citizen of Evanston, to think that if my meter expires I will get a ticket the minute this happens.  Come find another to generate revenue.


  3. Cameras for parking

    First this desperate attempt to raise revenue–next will be cameras at intersections.

    Evanston needs to throw out all the progressive ideas that are unfunded and get back to basics of city government.

  4. Revenue opportunities

    It seems to me that if the police would focus on ticketing people who are driving while talking on cell phones, we'd increase our revenue far more dramatically — they're everywhere are far more dangerous than people with parking tickets.

    1. Let me assure you that the

      Let me assure you that the EPD is indeed stopping people who are driving while talking on their cell phones. They stopped me… while I was scratching my ear! I can say they are enforcing that regulation. Which honestly is a positive thing. But really, how many more ways can they come up with to keep people away from Evanston?

    2. Good Point

      Good point – I see this all the time.

      And another – why not set up some of these cameras at various high-volume stop signs around town? Ticket the folks who roll through stop signs (nearly everyone) and you'll see another revenue boost. I've been rear-ended twice in Evanston due to the fact that I come to a complete stop each & every time I encounter a stop sign (it says "stop").

    1. Another reason to leave Evanston altogether.

      If Chicago does it – so should Evanston.  I've already pulled as much business as possible from Chicago out of hatred for their odius parking situation.  Time follow the others who have left Evanston for similar reasons.

  5. Wait…. if I should leave a

    Wait…. if I should leave a parking spot and need to return to the same area in Evanston an hour or two later and happen to park in the same spot, does that mean I would be considered as being one who "overstayed their welcome in a parking space…"? Would they continue to chalk our tires even with the new computer equipment?

  6. Let’s lease.

    This technology drops like a rock in price. Witness GPS, the forerunner of which I pay for monthly on my phone bill.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *