It’s taken five years, but Evanston has reduced the size of its vehicle fleet by 10 percent. But the city still plans to boost spending on replacement vehicles this year.

It’s taken five years, but Evanston has reduced the size of its vehicle fleet by 10 percent. But the city still plans to boost spending on replacement vehicles this year.

The fleet cuts came during a period when the city also cut its employee headcount by 10 percent.

And Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons told aldermen Tuesday night  that, to trim expenses before and during the recession-driven budget crisis, the city also delayed replacement of many aging fleet vehicles.

As a result, he said, more than 40 percent of the city’s current fleet of 364 vehicles are due or overdue for replacement.

Lyons said it will take nearly 10 years to  work through that backlog — assuming an increase in spending from an average of about $1.3 million over the past decade to $3.5 million this year, $2.5 million next year and $2.1 million for the next eight years.

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons.

Lyons says keeping vehicles beyond their optimal life span increases total costs — because maintenance expenses start rising rapidly, more than surpassing the savings from postponing the capital cost of replacement.

He said he hopes to be able to cut the size of the fleet by another 10 percent over the next several years.

He said he believes that can be achieved by sharing equipment across departments and expanding the use of leased vehicles as well as exploring the potential to share equipment with other governmental entities.

But some aldermen suggested cuts could be made more quickly.

City sedans parked at the Civic Center.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, suggested the city should look to providing mileage reimbursements or a car allowance for employees — rather than having city-owned passenger vehicles for inspectors, engineers and administrators.

“I bet that would be cheaper than owning the cars,” Rainey said.

Lyons said he believes Evanston “is ahead of the municipal curve” on adopting such policies, although behind the adoption of similar practices in the corporate world.

“The issue is service,” Lyons said, “If we have to reach out to a resident, having a vehicle gets us there immediately.”

“But we aren’t having problems with employees saying, ‘I can’t get a car.’ So maybe we can still go further, Lyons added.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, asked how often vehicles are sitting idle in the Civic Center parking lot.

Lyons said staff hasn’t done that sort of analysis yet, but hopes to do it over the next year.

Aldermen voted to approve the fleet spending plan, although Rainey voted against it, saying she didn’t want to take $500,000 from the general fund reserves to pay for a portion of this year’s added purchases.

In addition to approving the overall fleet plan, aldermen also approved the following fleet purchases Tuesday night:

  • Six replacement dump trucks for $749,000 from Prairie Archway International Trucks of Springfield, Ill.
  • Twelve smaller trucks for $638,000 from Currie Motors of Frankfort, Ill.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. More efficient fleet

    When pulling into the Civic Center parking lot recently, I couldn't help but notice the many older Ford Crown Victoria's parked in outer regions of the lot there (a dozen or so).  Presumably these are re-tasked or retired Police patrol cars.  These were once a municipal a "standard" sized vehicle popular with municipalities, but in recent years have become gas guzzzling anachronisms. 

    With gasoline at record high prices and concern for our collective community carbon footprint…  I hope that efficiency is one of the utmost considerations for replacement vehicles.  That opportunity was missed last time (two or three years ago) and the reason I heard was because it was too much trouble to train staff on how to maintain hybrid vehicles. 

    Hybrids (HEV's), Plug in Hybrids (PHEV's) and all Electric Vehicles (EV's) are here to stay and have become mainstream.  Yes, they cost more up front, but they deliver unmatched gas mileage – especially in city, start & stop driving… at the end of their life, they may be a bargain when one considers the cost of the fuel alone.

    Please take a very close look at the options and make wise cholces.  Imagine how many miles of start, stop and idle a parking enforcement jeep travels every year.

    Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas

    Secretary: Renewable Energy Task Force, Chairman: Transportation Task Force,
    CGE –

  2. Why aren’t they using car sharing or bikes?

    This is another case where the staff is asleep at the wheel, not aware of what other communities are doing. 

    Zip Car has a fleet management system where cars are available for a city's staff during working hours and then can be used by car-sharing members at night.  Given the Civic Center's location near transit and high density apartments, this seems to be a no-brainer.

    Overwhelmingly these schemes save cities money and can have positive environmental impacts since they make car sharing more attractive.

    Also, many cities have municipal bike fleets for employees to use while on official business. Even if you diverted 5% of car trips annually to bikes you could make an impact on the budget–plus there are health and environmental benefits for using bikes over cars.  From the Civic Center pretty much every location in the city is accessible within 15 minutes by bike.  It is probably quicker to ride your bike to Downtown, Northwestern, Evanston Hospital, etc… from the civic center than to drive a car and find a place to park.

    Once again, cities all over the country use these elements for their fleet management system.  Evanston staff is way behind the curve on this and citizens are having to pay for it.

  3. Spend, spend, spend,  TIFs. 

    Spend, spend, spend,  TIFs.  Council trips to DC.  Grants to developers who don't know how to market what they're building.

    Has anyone looked at the traffic ticketers?  Is the cost of their salaries and benefits, their vehicles, insurance on those vehicles, maintenance of them offset by parking ticket revenue?  Maybe there's a fleet of jeeps that could be put to more effective use.

  4. Staff using vehicles for personal use?

    At times I have been in other communities and noticed city vehicles.  I also noticed a city vehicle driving by my house early some mornings coming into town.  One has to wonder if these vehicles are being tracked?

  5. Service vehicles shoule be

    Service vehicles shoule be updated and should have better maintenance so it can last for more years. You should have the right Tools & Garage Parts to keep on the demand of keeping the car running without spending too much on replacement parts and other operational expenditures like fuel and engine tuning.

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