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Fancy meters get mixed reviews

Evanston’s new parking meters that take credit cards got somewhat mixed reviews at the Transportation and Parking Committee meeting Wednesday night.

Evanston’s new parking meters that take credit cards got somewhat mixed reviews at the Transportation and Parking Committee meeting Wednesday night.

Staff reported that the 41 meters during the first month of a planned three month test brought in $8,375.20. But because the old meters in the test area were collected as part of a much larger zone, they weren’t able to provide any direct comparisons with previous revenue levels.

Committee members seemed disappointed that only 14 percent of the people using the new machines paid with credit cards.

But Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said there’s a learning curve for customers, and she expects that credit card usage will increase as the test continues.

The meters have been installed on both sides of Sherman Avenue from Lake Street to Grove Street, on the east side of Sherman from Grove to Davis Street and on the south side of Davis Street from Chicago Avenue to Sherman.

That area has a lot of restaurants, and the new meters have been programmed to permit a four-hour time limit after 5 p.m., compared to a two-hour limit all day with the old meters.

Restaurant owners have complained that the two-hour meter limit hurt their evening business by forcing customers to either rush their meals or interrupt their dinner to feed the meter.

But so far, staff reported, only a handful of people have used the extended time limit option.

The new meters cost the city about $300 a month, Parking Manager Rickey Voss said.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, suggested expanding the test to an area with more retail shops that draw a younger age group, like the 1700 block of Sherman Avenue. She suggested parkers there might be more likely to whip out a credit card to pay the meter fee.

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