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Car-sharing fleet to nearly double

Evanston's Parking Committee Wednesday voted to approve adding four new parking spaces for the I-Go car sharing service at city garages.

Two of the new spaces would be located at the Sherman Plaza garage downtown, the others at the city garage at 1236 Chicago Ave., just south of Dempster St.

The additional slots would nearly double I-Go's current five-car fleet in Evanston.

I-Go Chief Executive Officer Sharon Feigon, an Evanston resident, said the Chicago-based non-profit company has a total of 145 cars in service now for its 5,000 members — or about one car for every 35 members.

She said the company has between 250 and 300 member in Evanston. With only five cars here, that means it has less than one car per 50 members here.

The vast majority of I-Go's cars are based in Chicago, but in addition to Evanston the company also has vehicles in Oak Park.

Parking Committee members voted to initially charge I-Go the full monthly parking rate for the new spaces while they seek advice from the city's legal department about whether the city can provide the spaces for free or at a discount.

When the company first started service in Evanston the city agreed to provide two spaces in the Maple Avenue garage for free.

Since then Zipcar, a for-profit car sharing company based in Boston, has also arrived in Evanston and is being charged by the city for the garage spaces it occupies.

Committee member Jonathan Perman, the executive director of Evanston's Chamber of Commerce, said the current policy is inconsistent and needs to be made consistent.

Member David Galloway, who also sits on the city's Plan Commission, said he's inclined to charge for the spaces whether the firm is profit or non-profit.

Ms. Feigon said I-Go has a lot of donated spaces at grocery stores and banks and apartment buildings. "Owners see it as an amenity for their residents," she said.

She said I-Go also has some spaces provided free by the City of Chicago and by the Chicago Transit Authority, but it has to pay "a lot" for slots in downtown Chicago parking garages.

The parking committee rejected an I-Go request for a space in the metered parking lot on Main Street across from Vogue Fabrics, saying that lot is often full.

It also refused to let the company jump the waiting list for spaces in city parking lots in South Evanston.

"The ordinance says we've got to allocate those on a first-come-first-served basis," Public Works Director David Jennings said.

Committee members also suggested that I-Go should approach local merchants about parking spaces, as it's done in Chicago.

"There's always space at the south end of the Jewel lot on Chicago Avenue," Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said.

The City Council is expected to vote on the new spaces next month. Ms. Feigon said once the spaces are approved, I-Go could have the additional cars in place within a few weeks.

In addition to the Maple Avenue garage, I-Go now has two cars on the Northwestern University campus and one in a surface parking lot on Hinman Avenue just south of Main Street.

Zipcar has two cars each at the Sherman Plaza, Church Street and 1236 Chicago Ave. garages.

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