If you are not fine with fines, or even if you are, the City of Evanston wants your opinion.
From a $25 parking ticket to much higher fines for things like leaving your car in a snow route, or the $85 annual wheel tax, owning or driving a car in Evanston can cost more than just gas, insurance, and that monthly loan payment. (Plus, the fines can increase if they are not paid within a specified period).
With that in mind, the City is surveying residents, commuters, and shoppers about fees, fines, and payment options.
According to a newse release, the survey’s purpose is “to help reduce barriers to City services and lessen financial burdens on Evanston households.”
Some of the questions in the anonymous survey are demographic — the zip code where you live and your family income.
Others are about how easy/difficult it is to find a parking spot near Evanston businesses, what factors influence where you decide to park (distance to destination, safety/security, among other options) and how far from your destination are you willing to leave your car.
But there are also questons about what City spokesperson Jessica Mayo calls “fine and fee justice,” such as “have you ever had to forego necessities (food, rent, utilities) to pay a City of Evanston fine or fee?”, or “have you ever held off on paying for the City’s wheel tax due to finances?”
The survey also asks how strictly should the City enforce paking regulations, and what should be the fine for a general parking violation such as exceeding the time limit: $25 or less/$26-$50/$51-99/$100 or more?
But then, there’s the kicker. If Evanstonians do want lower fees, and less strict enforcement, that comes with a potential downside.
“Parking ticket revenues,” the survey explains, “supports general City operations, including police and fire emergency response.”
Oops. Less revenue could mean less service. “How,” the survey asks, “do you think the City should balance enforcement and fines to continue to support these services?”
Options include reduced enforcement but more costly fines, increased enforcement with reduced cost of fines, leave things as they are now, or “eliminate parking fines and enforcement altogether and instead increase property tax, wheel tax, or other revenue sources?” There’s also a space for “other” if you have any different suggestions.
City fines and forfeiture revenue has been declining the past couple of years, in part due to COVID-19. Fewer people working or shopping downtown means fewer people paying to park, and fewer people getting tickets.
For fiscal year 2019, actual fine and forfeiture revenue was $4.2 million. The budgeted amount for Fiscal 2022 is only $2.9 million.
Survey responses will be accpeted through June 1.
The final question does tell one way respondents can save money, separate from any possible changes in fees and fines.
The survey asks “Are you aware the City offers reduced water and sewer rates to community members that qualify for the Low iIncome Home Energy Assistance Program?”