In an effort to get more diners for downtown restaurants, the City of Evanston will consider lowering the cost of evening parking on the weekend.

The price of parking was a major topic during Thursday night’s virtual 1st Ward meeting.

The new director of the Downtown Evanston marketing group, Andy Vick, said he liked the idea of possibly lower rates or even free parking on Friday and Saturday nights, “to incentivize people to come downtown.”

The discussion began after a ward resident complained about the cost of parking.

City Manager Luke Stowe said the city will consider potentially lowering the Friday and Saturday night rates.

Currently, most downtown street parking is $2 per hour. Some spots have two-hour limits, others have four. City-owned garages are cheaper, and free on Sundays.

Street parking is free after 9 p.m., but banned between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Stowe said the idea behind pay-to-park is not to make money, but to cause turnover, so one person doesn’t hog a spot all day, preventing new shoppers from parking near stores.

Stowe said Evanston recently studied other Big Ten cities, some of which actually encouraged Evanston to raise rates.

“That,” Stowe noted, “is a non-starter.”

Vick said while lower weekend night rates can be a good idea, free parking all the time isn’t practical.

While that may be the case in places like Wilmette and Winnetka, Vick noted, those communities are “different creatures” than Evanston.

Evanston, he noted, is a city, and is not the same as the “small suburbs to the north.”

Parking fees are “a reality of urban living,” he said.

Still, the idea of lower rates for weekend nights is now at least on the table.

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) said, “I do think we’re losing people to other towns due to parking. We need to see if we can make it less of an impediment” to people coming downtown.

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

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