Evanston is expected to seek bids soon on replacing its aging parking meters — either with fancy new meters or pay-and-display parking kiosks.

The city has been experimenting with both approaches in recent months. It’s installed a pay-and-display parking kiosk system on Church Street downtown and some new-style meters that accept credit cards for payment on segments of Sherman Avenue and Davis Street.

Now that you’ve had a chance to try out both systems — we’d like to know which system your prefer.

‘Smart meters’ or ‘pay-and-display kiosks’?

We know what you’re thinking — Where’s the “Parking should be free” option?

Well, until that state of nirvana arrives, how about sharing your views on another idea that’s been floating around — letting residents buy a permit that would let them park at meters — within posted time limits — without having to feed the meter?

I’d pay this much per month to not have to feed meters in Evanston …

Top: a credit-card-accepting parking meter and the payment panel of a parking kiosk.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Parking Meyers

    How about getting rid of parking meters all together? Then you might bring locals and others back, so they will shop and support downtown Evanston local businesses. Evanston is known infamously for their parking and many don't bother coming to Evanston and go to other suburbs (i.e. Skokie) for their needs (and free parking).

  2. Parking

    I am a member of Second Baptist Church located at 1717 Benson Ave. Evanston. Every Tuesday we run a soup kitchen, and have been for over 23 years. We serve approx. 100 meals each Tuesday. Everyone that works to prepare and serve these meals is a volunteer. Some of us had been parking at the meters on Benson Ave and feeding them whenever neccessary, recently, the parking enforcement authority started issuing tickets for anyone parking longer than 2 hours, some of us were suprised to find that we had been ticketed after parking and feeding the meters for 4 to 5 hours and not being ticketed, ( doesn't past practice mean anything?). My position and it is also the position of the rest of the volunteers is that if we are willing to volunteer our time and effort to provide a community service the the least The City of Evanston could do to facilitate that effort is provide us with free parking. It is my understanding that free parking for volunteers was the norm at one time.       

    1. Park in the garage

      I'm sure your soup kitchen is doing great things, but you have other options.  You can avoid tickets for long-term parking by putting your car in the Sherman St. garage which is about 450 feet away from the church.  You can park in there for as long as you want.

      If you want to avoid paying for parking, take public transit.  Again: your church is 450 feet from the city's transit hub.

      If you want totally free transport and parking, ride a bike.

  3. Parking meters

    It is already bad enough to have to deal with parking meters, which I am reminded of everytime I go to the business areas of Wilmette, Winnetka and other nearby communities where there are none.  I also am in downtown Chicago regularly and the kiosk parking system is the most inconvenient method imaginable for payment for parking.  And I laughed out oud when I read a alderman said she favored kiosk parking to eliminate the "clutter" on the sidewalks, after the city installed a collection of weird three feet high accent lights all over downtown. 

    Downtown Evanston is turning into a nightmare to navigate.  The one way streets are an inconvenient institution that we have gotten used to.  But there are many traffic lights at intersections that don't merit them.  The more recent bike lanes are a disaster, narrowing the busiest streets in town, making parking extremely difficult and creating more dangerous situations than are necessary.  Bikers are going both ways in the bike lanes and passengers are required to get out of cars right into the traffic of the street or into a bike lane where its difficult to see or know what to expect, and from which direction.  And with Kiosks, drivers would need to go and forth through traffic and bike lanes to use the system.  The bike lanes should have gone onto less busy streets, and I expect that we are going to have some very bad incidents as a result of this lack of foresight.

  4. Eliminate parking fees altogether

    I must agree with both Jeff Stoecklein's post and with the Anonymous post to eliminate the meters altogether.  And I empathize with the poster about the cost of volunteering.

    I increasingly find myself travelling outside of Evanston to avoid the insanity of downtown and the hassle of parking meters.  I totally oppose the kiosks.

    Chicago is the poster child of what NOT to do.  I have reduced my restaurant / entertainment spending in Chicago by several thousand dollars a year because I refuse to pay the 'tax' of high rates to support businesses in districts where the cost of parking is highway robbery on top of the taxes and fees on the food and beverages consumed and the inconvenience of shlepping a half block to kiosk only to learn it's out of order and then having to shlep further to find a working box and then walk all the way back to the car to place the ticket on the dash and then walk more to get where I was trying to go – sometimes walking a block or more even though I parked right in front of the business I was trying to support with my purchases.  In short – Chicago's increase in parking rates has definitely incented me to move my business OUT of the City.  I rarely meet clients in the City anymore.  It used to be my primary meeting location.

    I've increasingly found it so much more convenient to go to other burbs where businesses are in malls with free parking.  I dine out and enjoy entertainment in Glenview and Northbrook rather than Evanston and the City – as I did in the past – simply because it's become more affordable and more convenient than trying to support Evanston or Chicago because of their parking plan.

    While I've not decreased my dining and entertainment activities in Evanston to the same degree I have as in Chicago – I'm clearly trending in that direction.  Parking kiosks and higher parking fees will definitely push me towards that tipping point.  

    I'm very mobile for my business activities.  Almost daily, I meet associates for coffee at a coffee shop.  I used to always suggest downtown locations.  I no longer do.  I either suggest the Starbucks on Main in the shopping center or meet folks in Lincolnwood or Skokie – where the parking is free.  To chat with colleagues for 30 mins. to an hour and wanting to spend a modest amount for coffee and/or pastries but then also have to spend as much or more on parking or park for free by travelling a bit further – it's an easy choice – the budget drives me to the free parking.

    Policy makers – is this the desired effect you're striving for?  Are you trying to drive people out or draw more in? No doubt you're trying to balance what the market will bear to allocate the scarce resource of parking against what citizens will pay for the privilege – but in my view, you've already tilted the scale too far against the smaller cost, high volume type of business activities and are hurting the higher ticket price, lower volume types as well. 

    That said, I love the convenience of a flat monthly fee and meters that take credit cards – those are improvements that reduce the hassle of parking.

    A side note … I never pay with cash at Chicago kiosks after learning the hard way how you can lose cash dumping $10 of quarters into a paybox (in the highest price districts) and then have the paybox fail to issue you a receipt because of a malfunction.  Call the service number on the paybox and they tell you if you paid cash they can't help you – but if you paid with a card, they can trace the transaction.  I've had this happen numerous times and been able to get several hundred dollars of parking tickets reversed because they could prove I paid with my card. (I got the tickets because the customer service reps tell you to park anyway – without the paid receipt – because you paid and they can prove it if it was with a card – and when you get the ticket, contest it.  Yes – a silly game – but part of the way it is played in the great City That Works.)  Why Evanston wants to mimic this shining example of parking policy is beyond my ability to comprehend.  I would think Evanston would be better imitating our neighbors to the north – eliminate the parking fees altogether.

    1. Isn’t it a wash?

      You wrote, "I dine out and enjoy entertainment in Glenview and Northbrook rather than Evanston and the City – as I did in the past – simply because it's become more affordable and more convenient than trying to support Evanston or Chicago because of their parking plan."

      I get that parking in Evanston and the city can be a pain and cost more than the free version at the malls, but doesn't driving to Northbrook or Glenview cost you just as much in time and gas? Seems like a wash to me…

    2. Parking

      "I either suggest the Starbucks on Main in the shopping center or meet folks in Lincolnwood or Skokie – where the parking is free.  To chat with colleagues for 30 mins. to an hour and wanting to spend a modest amount for coffee and/or pastries but then also have to spend as much or more on parking or park for free by travelling a bit further – it's an easy choice – the budget drives me to the free parking."

      Even with metered parking, it is often difficult to find a parking space in downtown Evanston. 

      So what will happen if we make parking "free"?

      1. It will become even more difficult to find parking spaces.  The supply of parking spaces will not increase.

      2. The City will lose parking revenue.

      3. What's to stop commuters, students,  or long-term parkers from wasting a good street spot in front of  CVS?  We could enforce a '2-hour' rule, but who would pay for the enforcement?  If you are going to cut parking revenue, you either need to cut enforcement or force the city to subisidize it.

      And I'm not sure that Starbucks wants you taking up a table for 30 minutes to an hour if you are just buying a coffee and cake pop. 

    3. Free Parking = Worst Idea Ever

      Free parking would be the worst thing you can do.  Price the meters at what the market supports.  If nobody is parking, the price is too high.  If all the spaces are full, the price is too low.  On-street parking is for short-term convenience.  We should aim to generally have 1 or 2 spots available on each block.  If priced right, the spaces will turnover and provide that convenience.  I find parking in downtown Chicago much easier if I need to drive now than I did several years ago.  I only wish the City kept control of the meters rather than losing all that revenue to LAZ.  On-street parking in downtown Evanston is pretty well-utilized.  So, apparently people aren't entirely being driven to Lincolnwood and Skokie to eat pastries.  I would say that prices could probably go up on some blocks and still be supported, particularly in the downtown core.


      The idea that someone would avoid going somewhere in Evanston and instead driving to other burbs (assuming they are further away than downtown Evanston) because of free parking is silly.  At current gas prices, how much extra do you spend on gas?  Is that really worth it?  My guess is you might use a half gallon of gas doing so and actually spend more.  I go somewhere because they have something I want.  Not because somewhere I really wanted to go would result in me paying a buck or two to park.  I'd rather support local businesses anyways.  I'd rather find parking in downtown Evanston any day over hunting for a spot at Old Orchard.

  5. Walking and meters

    On some sidewalks downtown and on Sherman and Chicago you can't walk two abreast because of the meters. Putting in a kiosk would make walking a lot easier.

  6. Let the free market decide

    Let the free market, rather than the government, decide what to charge for parking. If we paid market price for parking, we would find ourselves deciding to take transit, walk and bike much more than we presently do. If we needed the car to pick up heavy items, we would always be able to find a couple spots where we needed them. The city could funnel the money right back into the street, improving its beauty and functionality for all users, not just drivers. The city would save millions by not having to subsidize gargantuan parking structures. We would benefit from cleaner air, more exercise and conserved fuel. Cars are great, just not for every errand, every day, for everyone! It is not the business of the government to subsidize parking at the public's expense.

  7. There is no such thing as a free lunch

    I love all these calls for banishing parking meters.  That sure would be nice.

    I would also like it if unicorns were real, if Santa Claus came to my house to give me free presents every year, and if I never had to pay taxes.

    We have two things happening in Downtown Evanston: 1) a high demand for street parking and 2) an overabundance of parking spaces in the city-financed garages.

    There already exists a high demand for street parking in the city and the city should allocate that scarce resource in the most efficient way possible.  Currently street parking is one area of city operations that actually is profitable.

    The garages, however, are another story. They generally operate at a deficit because of their high initial capital cost and the fact that there is an over-supply of space.  Consequently the city has devised a payment scheme whereby you CAN PARK FOR FREE in the downtown garages for an hour.  This is a massive subsidy, so you free parking people should take advantage of this giveaway.

    If you do away with street parking fees the city will have to find other ways to service the debt on the garages and fund their operating costs.  So that means higher general taxes.

    There are new technologies available for the on-street parking system that allow variable pricing (based on time of day and demand), payment by sms, prepaid systems (like the i-Pass/Chicago Card).  These will make the system much more efficient.

    I hope the city looks into these "smart parking" technologies as they are being implemented throughout the country to great success.

  8. Paper Waste vs. Lack of Space

    It would be awesome to gain back the space taken up by meters – walking in downtown on some of our streets is difficult due to lack of space.  Kiosks definitely have the advantage on the space argument.  Unfortunately, I can't help thinking of the mountain of little slips (waste of paper and ink) that are piling up in Chicago for every parker that receives a piece of paper to put on their dashboard.  They don't seem to be very "green."  The upside of those little slips?  Well, once you've paid for your time, you can reuse that slip anywhere in Chicago until the time is up…. no more overpaying meters for the errand runner!  That is definitely a score for the parker and a detractor for the City since kiosks don't require you to pay every time you move your car to a new location in town.  Do you suppose we might see a modest decline in parking revenue (not ticket revenue because that will never happen) with kiosks?  Individual meters require you to feed them whenever you park in front of one.  

    Since there are so many down and upsides to these choices, I will abstain from voting.  I simply can't make up my mind!  I will live with whatever the city decides to run with…. as long as they don't make the mistake of outsourcing the parking.  Let's agree to never do that!  😉

  9. A happy medium for Evanston’s parking

    There is no silver bullet here.  The City should do a combination of these two payment methods.  As with nearly everything, there are positives and negatives to each.  As some prvious posts have mentione,d for the kiosks the having to walk back to their vehicle and with the single space meters, the sidewalk clutter along with the ongoing maintenance of each and every one of those meter poles.  The greatest asset of both is the ability to pay with a credit card, since coins having become nearly extinct in many people's daily lives. 

    I have been to city's that have gone from meters to kiosks and the "clean" look is amazing.  Also, the gain in parking spaces since parking stalls no longer need to be delineated has to be substantial.  For congested areas downtown where each and every space is premium, going with the kiosks will add probably 10% more much needed parking spaces.  But to place the kiosks evrywhere wouldn't be feasible, especially from a cost standpoint.  The single space credit card meter, where parking isn't quite so valuable, would make more sense.  

    A happy medium should be attained whereas both systems are utilized to their greatest strengths and it should be done where both the parking public and the City equally benefit.  A common sense balanced approach would go a long way for all of us.

  10. Big blue thing at EPL

    speaking of parking…

    what's the big blue thing going up in the parking lot of the main library?

    it looks like it has solar panels.

    and why haven't the local NIMBYs organized in opposition to this , whatever it is?  I am surprised that Judy Fiske would allow such a structure to be placed so close to her  beloved Frances Willard house.

      1. Fiske, Rainey and I-Go Charging

        Thanks, Bill.  I must have missed, or forgotten about, that article from October 2011.

        And I was right….Judy Fiske was her usual obstructionist self:

        "The library lot location had originally been opposed by Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, who said she feared that lot was too crowded. This week she said that after conferring with officials of the Woman's Club of Evanston, which uses the lot for special events, she was less concerned about that issue.

        She said she still had concerns about the appearance of the canopy — given that the lot is located between two historic landmark properties — the WCTU headquarters and the Woman's Club — but she ended up voting for the measure.

        Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, pushed for adding the Howard Street location to the list, saying many people in that area don't have cars because on-street parking is so congested."

        Is there any construction  – other than R1 houses –  that Judy Fiske has not obstructed,  ever ?

        And her rationale…"the lot was too crowded"…so what?  If the Woman's Club has a special event, they can use the nearby City garage for parking.

        And once again,  it is refreshing to see the contrast between Ann Rainy and Judy Fiske.  Rainey recognizes that I-Go would be a useful service for her constituents, and tries to attract more business or amenities to her ward….while Judy Fiske is busy chasing it away.

  11. Drive Less, Live More!

    OK Bill, since you are asking for ideas… here's a few.

    How about doubling the cost to park at metered spaces downtown… Add a bike "parking corral" on every downtown block.  Then halving the cost to park in the downtown parking garage structures to get more cars off the streets and inside – out of the way for more protected bike lanes to encourage carbon-free healthy transport choices.

    If the citizens of Evanston would really like to improve the life on the streets… less cars, more bikes and pedestrians in "Open Streets"… more (and more frequent) local public transit… ideally with a City of Evanston only "bus circulator" that might cost something like $1 for a trip anywhere in town.

    Just my two cents…  Thanks for the forum.

    Respectfully, Brian G. Becharas

  12. Meters v Kisoks

    I am firmly in th kiosk camp.  I prefer the ones like they have in Ann Arbor MI though versus the ones with the little piece of paper that  you have to take back to your car.

    In AA the spaces are numbered.  You go to the kiosk enter your space number, pay and move on.

    The parking patrol can then check the kiosk for expired spaces instread of looking at the paper on each car.

    These kiosks save paper, save time, save money, save space on the sidewalk and are more aesthetically pleasing than a forest of meters.

  13. Customer Friendly Meters for the Win!

    Kiosks are nightmares.  Have you ever had to pay for your parking in Chicago at one of these machines when it is 20 below?  How about when it is raining?  I don't understand why the City is considering this when there are other viable options out there. 

    I love the credit card option, but want to pay where I park.  That way I don't have to remember a number (which I usually forget) or walk a block to pay my fare.  The smart meters have all the bells and whistles of the kiosk, but without all the annoyances.  My Grandma can figure out the smart meter.  The kiosk might give her a stroke.

  14. Kiosks, please

    Let's move into the 21st century please!  Single space parking meters and the unsightly, old, ugly posts lining the streets – this "technology" has been around for 80 years.  Can we turn the page?  Really.  

    1. No kiosks, please!

      William — not sure if you tried these meters out, but they take credit cards and are solar powered — which has hardly been around for 80 years.  

    2. Kiosks

      Just came back from Church street. Assume there will be more Kiosks if the City goes that way. I also assume the lost parking will be ok since they expect additional revenue

  15. Kiosks Please

    Anonymous –

    i apologize for incorrectly using "technology" to describe single space meters. I should have referred to the "infrastructure" – posts with a mechanism on top to accept money.  I understand they are solar powered and accept credit cards, both if these applications do.  I don't see why we need to continue to look at these posts when we don't need to.  Arent there enough things we cant do without cluttering our sidewlalks (sign posts, bike racks, fire hydrants, light poles, etc.) that we could do without these meter posts lining our busy sidewalks?  It really does help the esthetics of a streetscape.  Just my humble opinion…

  16. Why smart meters are better

    Smart meters are better for four reasons:

    1)  With meters, you don't have to walk half a block to a kiosk.  While it in the summer this isn't a big deal, in snow and rain, it is a pain.  Also, next year metered parking will no longer be free for holders of disabled placards in Illinois, so disabled people will have to pay as well; making them walk all the way to a kiosk and back makes no sense.

    2)  With meters, you don't have to wait in line for some idiot who got there first to figure out how to use the kiosk.  This happens all the time in downtown Chicago.  Even if the person in front of you knows how to use the kiosk, it still can take 30-60 seconds per person when using a credit card.

    3)  With meters, you can't get a ticket from some overzealous parking checker when you are walking to/from the kiosk or using it– or waiting forever to use it.

    4)  With meters, you can add more time without starting from scratch.  With a kiosk, if you need to park for longer than intended, you either have to buy more time exactly when your ticket expires or double-pay for the overlap time.  You can add time to your meter at your convenience.

    Kiosks may ease the collection process and allow for a few more spaces per block (that varies based on how people park), but those benefits are greatly outweighed by the four reasons above to stick with the time-tested solution of meters.

    1. Anonymous to Anonymous

      It's obvious that you must have some vested interest in "smart meters" by your slanted comments.  But I'd like to repsond anyway:

      1)  That's what's gotten wrong with this country and generation – we have gotten way too lazy.  A half a block?  Come on.  And as far as the disabled parker goes, there is "pay by phone" parking available that would compliment any form of manual payment if need be. 

      2)  If there is an "idiot" in front of you don't be an "idiot" yourself.  Help them out.  30 to 60 seconds?  I've used pay stations too.  No way it takes that long.

      3)  Really?  Let's give Evanston parking enforcement staff a little credit.  I think they're trained to NOT be waiting behind buildings to issue tickets to people unaware that they are there.

      4)a. In most cases the intent of a parking meter is to turn over parking, and therefore, meter feeding is not allowed at meters (like the majority of those in Evanston which are 2 or 3 hour limits).  Overstaying your parking hurts the businesses that they are there for in the first place. 

      b.  In the event you pay for two hours at a pay station and are finished and leave in one hour, you can use that receipt again at another parking space.  At your beloved single space meter you leave the time on the meter and your just out that second hour you paid for.

      I'm not anti-single space meter but I just had to respond.  There is an environment for both of these in Evanston, and both should be considered.

      1. 1) I said:  “While it in the

        1) I said:  "While it in the summer this isn't a big deal, in snow and rain, it is a pain."  I'm not sure that reflects being lazy; it seems like it has to do more with not being wet and cold.  If there is a pay-by-phone option then it isn't an issue for the disabled.

        2)  I do that, but it doesn't make it go that much faster.  As far as the time it takes, the kiosks in Chicago seem to be very slow to authorize credit cards.

        3)  There are plenty of newspaper articles you can find about this happening in Chicago since the kiosks were installed.  Maybe Evanston parking checkers would be more vigilant when it comes to people walking to and from their cars.

        4) This isn't as big an issue in Evanston because parking is cheaper than in Chicago.  When I talk about feeding the meter, I mean putting in 30 minutes when you park, realizing after 20 minutes that you'll need longer, and going back to put more time in.  I don't mean re-feeding the meter to exceed the parking time limit.  Time limits apply with meters and kiosks, and sometimes when neither is present.

        I have no interest in meters or kiosks except as a person who drives and parks in Evanston. If you're "not anti-single space meter", I'm not sure why you felt that you "just had to respond". Having used both parking meters and kiosks, I prefer the meters.

        You said:  "There is an environment for both of these in Evanston, and both should be considered." 

        Both are being considered and people can voice their preference as I have.

  17. Think of YOUR future

    To those who feel that biking & walking should be the new norm & that walking a half block to a pay station is no big deal, I urge you to not be so shortsighted.  Unless Evanston magically bucks the greying of America trend, the youth of today who move about today with so little effort may eventually be hobbled by the ills of aging which include, among other things, arthritis, bad knees, hips, backs & feet, or neurological conditions which impair movement.

    If I had been asked 20 years ago if biking was preferable to driving, I would have absolutely agreed since I was able to bike everywhere back then. If one had asked me even 5 years ago whether walking to a kiosk was a big deal, I would have laughed.  Now, older, & with a problem with affects my mobility, a half block feels like the equivalent of 2 blocks; it's hard.  And painful.

    To those who suggest, "Pay by phone," I could do that providing there were no service fees involved in the transaction, as in the newly proposed Chicago deal (I refuse, on general principles,  to pay because I have a handicap).  But I'm willing to bet that those older than me are baffled by technology & don't have SmartPhones which would allow this.  Will Evanston provide the phones & instruct the seniors, the very people who need it?!

    Beyond that, if I'm shopping & underestimated my time, a kiosk is unforgiving about adding time whereas a meter allows for that slight miscalculation.  Even worse if this is due to glacial service in a restaurant.  Double jeopardy – cold food AND a ticket!

    As for free parking, I think it would be really bad for the merchants.  What's bad for them is very bad for us.  Our taxes would go up to make up for city taxes not collected because of shuttered stores.  Contrary to popular opinion, there's no such thing as a free lunch. 

    I do realize that the last post here was written in March but I can find no article on what decision was made, either way.  In the event that a decision has not been reached, I encourage people (or those who make the final call)  to think of the future they maybe can't see at the moment.  Those affected in Boston, MA & Moore, OK couldn't either…

  18. Reduced rates for Evanston residents

    I'm all for using kiosks myself. It opens up the sidewalks and is no big deal to feed. I really like the way Ann Arbor apparently does it from another commenter.

    How about reducing rates for Evanston residents, especially by the Metra or CTA? There seem to be a lot of folks driving to Evanston from Skokie to hope on the Metra and parking all day for a pretty small fee (at least at the Central Street Metra). Likewise for beach passes, after all we Evanstononians don't get discounts on Skokie parks but they get the resident rate for the beach.

    Other than that, we should promote actually walking whenever we can. Imagine if people walked or biked instead of driving short distances. Pedestrians are a good thing while cars are a good tool that need better management.

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