Mayoral candidate Barnaby Dinges says Evanston residents should be able to park free at downtown meters after 5 p.m.

Dinges says “parking enforcement is one of the biggest complaints I hear,” Dinges said. “Enforcement is important, but it shouldn’t be excessively punitive and drive people and business out of town.”

Under his plan Evanston residents with a valid city sticker on their cars would not have to pay for meter parking after 5 p.m.

Some local business owners, especially restaurateurs, have complained that evening parking enforcement — especially with a two hour maximum limit on the meters — cuts into their dinner business.

Dinges says the city’s parking division “barely pays for itself,” adding $258,000 to city revenue beyond its operating expenses.

By contrast, he says, the city takes in nearly $18 million in sales tax revenue, about 20 percent of its general fund budget.

A better business climate, Dinges says, would encourage people to shop more in Evanston — raising the city’s revenue without raising taxes.

He said city taxes have increased 31 percent since 2002, compared to a 17 percent increase in the consumer price index. That, he says, means the cost of Evanston city government has grown at nearly twice the rate of inflation.

Contacted this morning, John Burke, the city’s public works director, said he didn’t know off-hand what the impact on city revenue of Dinges’ proposal would be, but he would try to come up with an estimate.

City parking meters now have to be fed until 9 p.m. in downtown Evanston and until 6 p.m. in most other parts of the city.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. “Free” parking will result in no available spaces
    Ever try to park at a meter in downtown Evanston between the hours of 5pm and 9pm? Meter spaces are already pretty hard to come by.
    Can you imagine how much more difficult it would be to find meter spaces if people are allowed to leave there cars in such spaces for hours on end?

    If you want to eat dinner, or see a movie, or do something else downtown that will take longer than 2 hours, park in one of the many city garages. This whole notion that people need to park RIGHT IN FRONT of the restaurant/store that they’re going to needs to stop. It won’t kill you to walk a few blocks, and it might allow someone else who can’t easily walk to park closer.

    I think the city needs more 20-30 minute meters, personally.

    1. Remember …
      Parking would only be free from 5-9 p.m. for those who have a valid City sticker. It wouldn’t be free for everybody. I want to give Evanstonians a break and help boost business. It wouldn’t hurt, too, to encourage more people to use the City’s excellent downtown garages.

    2. Exactly
      Free parking after 5 PM would result in little to no available spaces. I would expect to see many of the spaces occupied by the restaurant/business employees. The on-street spaces are intended for shorter duration and more convenient trips. If you are expecting to be downtown for more than 2 hours, park in one of the 3 garages for as long as you like.

      I’ve said this before, people shop/eat downtown because of what the stores/restaurants have to offer. The on-street parking is well-utilized now… I would increase the rates to reflect the market for parking on-street before getting rid of them. The objective of on-street parking fees is to regulate the utilization of the spaces, not generate revenue for the City. Increase the feels to ensure good turnover of spaces.

  2. CPI and City Government
    “He said city taxes have increased 31 percent since 2002, compared to a 17 percent increase in the consumer price index. That, he says, means the cost of Evanston city government has grown at nearly twice the rate of inflation.”

    I am not sure how this increase of 31 percent was computed, but let’s accept it.

    Dinges says that the CPI has increased only 17% over the same period, so the cost of Evanston government has increased faster than the CPI.

    Is that surprising? If the CPI represents the average rate of inflation, it follows that some goods and services will increase at a rate higher than the CPI, and some will increase at a lower rate (or even decrease).

    Services – like city government or education – that cannot benefit from the efficiencies of economy of scale or outsourcing to Asia are most likely to increase at a rate faster than the CPI.

    1. Never going to cross the border?
      Which law and type of enforcement is going to keep you from driving south a couple blocks and into the law enforcement trap Michele? Just a tip for you…if you are traveling anywhere on the eastbound lanes of Howard, you are in Chicago and in violation of your self imposed ban.

      1. Lighten up!
        And, frankly, to people I don’t know who don’t identify themselves, it’s Mrs. Hays, thank you.

        I do plan to take the train into Chicago; I just don’t plan to park at meters there any more. Have you read the new privatized parking restrictions? They make our parking problems a walk in the park, so to speak.

        Find out more about Brummel Park Neighbors and Michele Hays

  3. Still won’t work
    I understand your intent, but the likely result is that employees, that are also residents of Evanston, will take up these spaces. So not only will it still be difficult for patrons to find an on-street space, but it will also reduce the amount of revenue that the City sees from on-street parking.

    Increasing the meter rates will encourage more turnover of the on-street parking spaces, make it easier to find a parking space if you are willing to pay the rate, increase revenue for the City, reduce traffic congestion, and increase pedestrian activity. The myth that it hurts businesses is just that, a myth.

  4. Dinges alleges that parking
    Dinges alleges that parking enforcement is “driv[ing] people and businesses out of town.” As many people have attested, on-street parking at night is often hard to come by–which means that people are congregating downtown, likely patronizing businesses. Given excessive demand, if anything, on-street parking rates are TOO LOW.

    Also, the municipal parking lots are NEVER full. It would make sense to have better signs for the municipal lots [perhaps highlighting the fact you get an hour for free] so visitors unfamiliar with the city know where to park.

    According to Dinges’ logic, are we supposed to believe that businesses like Cereality or Dr. Wax have gone out of business because of on-street parking prices??? This seems quite a stretch and I’m not sure if it is supported by any data.

    It reminds me of the saying often attributed to Yogi Berra–“no one goes to that restaurant any more–it’s too crowded.”

    1. Dinges campaigns like a high school class president
      I just had to give a tip of the hat to the Cereality reminder.

      But really, why all the focus from the Dinges camp on evening parking?

      To me– I feel like Dinges is the high school kid running for class president and promising free snacks from the vending machine. I really don’t think a street parking issue has anything to with anything. In light of everything else going on out there (why oh WHY did Cereality go out of business?! I kid.) isn’t there something else we can focus on?

      Garages are so dog cheap and available here, I never have trouble doing what I need to do downtown. Heck, I graduated from Northwestern a few years ago and didn’t have trouble parking a car during graduation in the city on a weekend.

      Dinges, if you’re going to keep campaigning like Zack Morris from “Saved by the Bell”– I can’t even take you seriously.

      Do we have any other campaign topics/promises rolling in from the grown-up candidates?

      1. Yeah, Cereality was a
        Yeah, Cereality was a joke.

        I actually went to Dinges website–if you can look past the comical deployment of the third person in his “press release,” you see that he is uninformed about some basic facts relating to the parking sticker.

        Here are the goals of his “plan”:
        “The goals of the plan would be to >>
        * Sell more Evanston City Stickers
        * Reward residents who buy parking stickers
        * Create a better business environment
        * Increase sales tax revenue through increased shopping
        * Use parking enforcement as a credible deterrent … not a punitive force”

        “Sell more city stickers”?!?! He assumes the annual vehicle tax is some sort of voluntary program?!?! The city ordinance requires ALL vehicles registered in Evanston to have city stickers. You can’t “sell more.”

        How much “increased sales tax revenue” does he expect to raise?

        I agree that this sounds like High School Class president sort of stuff–Evanston is not Wasilla. I doubt this fluff will fly.

        It is important to remember, though, that the Mayor in Evanston is a weak office–they can’t even introduce an ordinance and they only vote in the case of a tie.

        So “policy proposals” from the candidates are really kind of superfluous.

  5. I do plan to take the train
    I do plan to take the train into Chicago; I just don’t plan to park at meters there any more. Have you read the new privatized parking restrictions? They make our parking problems a walk in the park, so to speak.

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