Evanston’s Parking Committee is considering setting a new, lower rate for parking on the roof of the downtown Sherman Plaza garage.

The committee voted Wednesday to have staff develop a draft ordinance that would most likely cut the roof rate from the $85 per month charged now everywhere in the garage, to $70.

A pass card and gate system already in place would be used to enforce the new rate plan.

Parking committee members say they hope the new lower rate will encourage employees of downtown businesses who now leave work to feed on-street meters several times a day to switch to parking in the garage.

That would open up more on-street parking for customers of the businesses who often have trouble finding a space now.

Even with downtown meter rates recently raised to 75-cents an hour, many downtown retail employees who work less than a 40 hour week find it cheaper to park at meters than in the garage — as long as they manage to avoid parking tickets.

A worker would have to be on the job more than 110 hours a month before parking meter fees would match the cost of a monthly garage parking permit at the current rate. The hourly parking rate at the garage is $1.

Transportation Director Rick Voss said the company managing the city’s garages anticipates that at least 20 percent of the people who take advantage of the reduced-price permits would be new customers, resulting in at least a modest increase in revenue for the garage.

Voss says the 213 spaces on the top level of the garage now are almost always vacant.

Committee member Jonathan Perman, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said the $70 rate might still be too high. “Someone with an annual salary of $30,000 or $40,000 probably is not buying an $85 monthly permit now and they’re still not likely to do it at $70,” Perman said.

The committee also voted to move forward immediately with plans to revamp the short-term parking area at the base of the garage.

The area on the first parking level that now is limited to one-hour parking will switch to having a two-hour limit and will be expanded to also cover the garage’s second level.

Merchants have complained that their customers find the one-hour limit insufficient to complete their shopping.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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