Employees of businesses in some of Evanston’s neighborhood shopping districts could be eligible to buy permits to park on nearby residential streets under a plan discussed by the Transportation and Parking Committee this week.

Parking Division Manager Jill Velan said that she’s received a request from the owners of Foodstuffs on Central Street to provide some accommodation for its employees, many of whom work an early morning shift preparing food.

With restrictions on commuter parking on side streets near the Metra station from 7 to 10 a.m., the recent change to require feeding meters starting at 8 a.m. rather than 9 a.m. has made parking more difficult and costly for those employees.

Velan says she’s also received similar requests from some merchants on Dempster Street west of the Metra tracks and has been considering a pilot program there that would let the business owners or employees buy parking permits for nearby residential streets.

Assuming the same pricing applied as for residents, workers who didn’t live in Evanston, and so hadn’t paid the wheel tax on their cars, would have to pay $90 in 2019 for a parking permit, and $115 in 2020.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said it wouldn’t be fair to charge the employees more than that.

“They’re actually using the street less than someone who lives in the area and could leave their car on the street all week, day and night,” Wynne said, adding that retail employees are generally not “super well paid folks.”

But Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, said, “I kind of think it should be more expensive than what residents pay, but not wildly more expensive.”

Revelle said she was also concerned that the new permits not make it too hard for neighborhood residents to find parking on the side streets, especially in the area just south of Central Street.

Velan noted that the city prefers to have metered spaces available for the customers of retail businesses, rather than being tied up by employees.

The committee asked Velan to come up with a more detailed plan for a pilot test of the concept for discussion at its next meeting in January. Assuming the committee approved that proposal, it could be on the City Council’s agenda in February.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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