There are apparently times when Payne Street, in the Hill Arts District, looks like a used car lot, or even an abandoned car junkyard.

Because there are no parking restrictions in the 1500 and 1600 blocks, a memo from the city’s parking department says, “oftentimes vehicles are stored or abandoned on these blocks.”

And those stored or abandoned cars take spaces which otherwise would go to residents, or to employees or customers of nearby businesses.

The pain on Payne Street was one of several parking-related issues discussed at a meeting of 5th Ward residents and merchants Wednesday night with Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) and Michael Rivera, the city’s parking supervisor.

The session was at Double Clutch Brewery on Ashland Avenue, one of several new Hill Arts District businesses bringing workers and customers to the community.

But more workers and customers have led to another problem, turnover, or rather, the lack of it. When employees of a business can park on a street for free all day, it’s harder for merchants to get a continual flow of customers.

Rivera told Evanston Now that there are two ways to increase turnover, either by “assessing time limits or by assessing fees.”

On the other hand, businesses who have had free street parking for years are in no hurry to see it go.

Paul Boynton, of Kelvin Concrete Contractors, said his employees often come in overnight, and if they were still out working during the day when parking was limited to a few hours, those workers would be ticketed.

By meeting’s end, there was agreement on a six-month pilot program, to begin sometime next year if City Council approves.

The goal is to increase both turnover for businesses and street parking for residents.

That program would implement the following changes:

  • On Payne Street, 12 hours of free parking between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. to allow long-term parking for area employees but prevent vehicles from being stored or abandoned on the blocks.
  • On Ashland, two hours of free parking in the 2100 and 2200 blocks, with tickets being given to overtime parkers between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Currently there are no time restrictions and cars can park all day.
  • On Dewey, the 2100 and 2200 blocks would become a Wheel Tax Zone. Those with a paid up Evanston wheel tax could park in those blocks for free. The idea is to help residents. Currently, anyone can park there for an unlimited time.
  • Plans may also be developed to use a parking lot on Ashland, which is currently closed overnight.

If the pilot program does not succeed, it would then either be back to the drawing board, or back to what caused the problems in the first place.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.