Evanston aldermen appear ready to repeal the fees for Sunday afternoon and evening on-street parking that they imposed last year.

At Monday’s City Council meeting Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward proposed eliminating the Sunday parking fees.

Rainey suggested the city could make up what Interim City Manager Erika Storlie said would be about $300,000 in revenue lost from the repeal by permitting video gaming in the city.

Niles reportedly made $377,000 in taxes and fees from video gambling in its last fiscal year from 26 video gaming locations in the village. Nearly all those locations have what at the time was the state-mandated maximum of five gaming machines. The state ceiling since has been raised to six machines.

Evanston so far has not authorized video gaming, and none of the other aldermen picked up on the video gaming idea, but they generally agreed with the proposal to wipe out the Sunday parking charges.

Mayor Steve Hagerty will hold a town hall meeting about the budget at 7 p.m. Thursday at Temperance Beer Co., 2000 Dempster St., at which residents can offer their thoughts about Sunday parking fees, video gaming or any other budget issue.

Aldermen on Monday generally said they weren’t thrilled about the plan they approved last year that will see hourly on-street parking rates rise from $1.50 to $2 on Jan. 1. But none proposed actually repealing it — at least in part because of the big hole repeal would leave in the budget — a gap Storlie estimated at $1.5 million to $1.9 million.

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, proposed exempting the Central Street shopping district from the increase, saying shoppers there don’t have the option of cheaper garage parking that exists downtown. She argued that with free parking available just a few blocks away in Wilmette, the Central Street merchants need a break on the parking charge.

But Alderman Judy Fiske, whose 1st Ward includes much of downtown, said she doesn’t see problems on Central Street, but downtown merchants, by contrast, “are really struggling.” She said the rates should be fair to everyone in the city.

Alderman Don Wilson, whose 4th Ward includes other portions of downtown, said he also favors keeping parking rates consistent across the city.

Storlie suggested amending the city’s amusement tax ordinance hit events held by non-profit groups like Northlight Theatre and Northwestern University as an option for generating replacement revenue for the Sunday parking charge.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, said she supported taxing Northlight, which is planning to return to downtown Evanston after many years in Skokie.

Rainey suggested exempting smaller theater groups from the tax, and City Attorney Michelle Masoncup suggested that might most easily be done by imposing the tax only on venues that have more than a certain number of seats.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Parking rates
    At $1.50 to $2 an hour few if any shoppers see ANYTHING in Evanston worth paying for parking. That is a reality. Who from outside Evanston (wilmette or skokie I.e) would drive in to shop at CVS or Target. And any Evanston resident drives OUT of Evanston to shop. If you want “shop local” to work, parking must be free or VERY low (50 cents an hour). Again reality is the word.

    1. Parking reality

      Hi Donald,

      Suggest you read our story reporting data showing that higher parking rates have NOT driven people away from parking in Evanston.

      Of course nobody can yet know what the response to the planned increase from $1.50 to $2 will be, but the increase from $1 to $1.50 has not turned Evanston shopping districts into ghost towns.

      Underpricing parking just shifts more of the cost of paying for our street infrastructure onto the property tax or other revenue sources.

      — Bill

      1. Likely those who are no

        Likely those who are no longer parking in Evanston because of the increased rates have simply freed up parking spaces for others. Underpricing parking results in drivers circling around looking for parking, and is not good for businesses.

        Also parking rates should be based on demand, why set them at the same rate for the whole city?

    2. parking is never free

      I always repeat this when I hear about parking being free somewhere else.  Parking is never, ever free.  I don’t want to be mean but people who think parking is free at Old Orchard are not too bright.  Your parking cost there are simply passed onto you through higher sales prices, and considering the very, very high CAM cost (common area maintenance which includes parking) that is passed from Westfield onto each store you are really paying much higher parking rates than Evanston.  It’s simply hidden from you.  

      Funny, some people claim that parking pricing is keeping people from coming downtown while others, sometimes the same folks, say they can never find street parking downtown because all the spaces are occupied.   

      Yes, Evanston needs more than just restaurants and destination retail doesn’t make much sense here, so bring on the Northlights and other activity generators.  And feel free to put a small tax on their ticket sales.  If that affects their ticket sales then they need to stage better plays.

      1. “free parking”

        Given, yes, parking costs and lot maintenance are doubtless covered in some way – perhaps by the higher cost of merchantise.  Still, it is so much easier to park without looking for the cash box down the street.  In winter there are also imperfectly shoveled sidewalks to navigate;  why add an extra trip to the cash box?  They should never have removed those parking meters!

        1. the app is so convenient

          Parking lot maintenance, r.e. taxes, everything is always charged back to you, there are no little parking fairies that provide free parking, not anywhere, ever.

          As for the cash boxes simply download the app. I sit in the comfort of my warm front seat, the app even vaults where you parked before so you don’t have to input anything, just touch a button and you are done.  You never, ever need to walk to the cash box, not even once.  The app has worked seemlessly every time I’ve used it, alerts me when the meter is about to expire, unlike Old Orchard it’s transparant in what you pay, it’s simply very convenient. 

          Basically it’s year 2020, anyone who doesn’t download the app that’s their decision, but harping about convenience is no longer a legitimate complaint.

  2. Parking in Evanston
    Why can’t they just let downtown Evanston shopkeepers get a parking permit from the city at reduced rates cause they are the ones hurting the most. Making Sundays free but increasing the rates for the rest of the week is not going to lessen this funancial burden for them.

  3. I love the arguments about parking in Evanston

    I love the arguments from people who complain about paying to park in downtown Evanston. They always sound like a paraphrase of Yogi Berra:

    “Nobody goes to Downtown Evanston anymore, you can never find a parking place.”

  4. Taxing Nonprofit Arts is Bad Policy

    Is this really happening again?  Waiting until the very last minute of the budget process and then trying to push through a tax on nonprofit theatres and their patrons?

    Expanding the Amusement Tax to include nonprofit performing arts organizations is a seismic change in arts policy that will affect the quantity and quality of the performing arts in Evanston.  Is the City Council going to approve it with so little thought and care?  This is not good governance.  Formulating policy should be about more than just filling a $50K budget gap at the very last minute.

    Applying the amusement tax is not as simple as just adding sales tax at the back end.  And it also doesn’t only affect consumers.  There is a limit to what people will pay for tickets, particularly for shows/acts that are unknown or unproven.  The tax will impact the shows that are done and will eventually start to eat into revenues.  It would immediately put Evanston performing arts organizations and venues at a disadvantage.  Chicago and the surrounding communities do not tax nonprofit performances (or even smaller for-profit live shows).  

    If I were running Northlight, I would be furious.  But even if this fails, the damage is done.  Evanston has shown the arts community where it stands — that it sees the nonprofit arts as a viable source of revenue that it can then dole out to its favorites and spend on pet projects.  Why would anyone want to open/operate a performance space or theatre in Evanston now?

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