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Evanston’s Parking Committee Wednesday night approved a pilot test of a new parking meter that accepts credit cards for payment.

The plan would see 40 new single-space meters from IPS Group of San Diego, Calif., installed at a location yet to be determined.

Chad Randall, chief operating officer of IPS Group, told the committee that consumers tend to buy more meter time when they’re able to pay by credit card, so that cities that install the meters see up to a 25 percent increase in revenue.

Each solar-powered meter includes a cell-phone like connection to report its status to a central monitoring service, and city workers can use a web browser interface to selectively program the meters to charge different rates or offer different parking time limits at different times of day.

That feature had special appeal to committee members who’ve been wrestling with how to respond to complaints from downtown restaurant owners whose patrons have had to get up from their dinner tables to feed the existing two-hour meters since meter hours of operation were extended from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The meters also report wirelessly how much money they’ve collected and whether they are experiencing any performance problems.

The meters can also be combined with a separate pavement-mounted device to monitor when cars pull out of a parking space and zero out the remaining meter time.

They still accept coins for payment and can also take payment by cell phone.

Randall said that, because the system reuses existing meter housings, it can cost half as much to install as the multi-space pay-and-display meter systems the city has also been considering.

The meters cost $400 to $500 each and the firm charges a $5 monthly fee for each meter for the monitoring system.

In addition, credit card transactions carry a processing fee that Randall said averages 10 to 12 cents per transaction.

But he claimed that, because of increased usage, cities that install the new meters still see a net increase in revenue.

City officials say Evanston now collects $1.9 million from its roughly 1,220 parking meters.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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11 Comments

  1. Parking Meters
    How about an IV tap?

    Reply,
    Heh, heh … I hear the actual plan is for a chip to be embedded in all citizens that will debit your account hourly no matter where you park yourself.
    –Bill

  2. Pay at box?
    Has the city looked into the “pay at box” systems that are used in Chicago? It seems to me that one box on a block would be much cheaper than 30 individual meters, and provide the same function. Plus, when people are allowed to park without painted spaces, they tend to park tighter and thus more spaces are actually available on a stretch of street. The system is a little more cumbersome and take some getting used to, but they seem to work fine in the city once people learn how to use them.

    As a side note, the little trick of zeroing out these meters when a car leaves is ingenious. I’m sure people will complain about the idea and it seems a bit devious on the surface, but it’s really a brilliant way to boost revenue.

    Reply:
    As the story points out, the vendor, which sells both types of systems, claims the single meter systems are much cheaper because much of the existing equipment can be reused.
    The “squeeze-’em tighter” issue was also discussed at the meeting — answer was that it varies seasonally — yes, people will park tighter in the summer, but when spaces are obscured by snow in winter the individual meters supposedly provide a better reference point for where to park and otherwise people end up more spread out.
    — Bill

    1. Parking Meter
      I attended this meeting and am very concerned that the growing need to generate revenue from parking fees and fines is becoming a little overzealous. Most families, including mine, have opted to shop less in Evanston. Evanston has some of the best restaurants and businesses on the North Shore.

      However, you can now frequent other surrounding places to eat and shop without the parking hassle.

      By the way, who likes to shop or eat and watch all of those parking enforecement jeeps circling the blocks to fine–well- generate revenue.

      Just another thought!!!

      Charles

      1. Becoming overzealous?
        Ha! They aren’t known as the parking Nazi’s for nothing! The enforcement regime has been overzealous for some time. I speak as a real estate agent who has received a number of tickets while carting clients around town looking at properties – getting nailed in neighborhoods with residential permit only and no way to get a permit while showing a 1.5 million dollar home – to getting ticketed while showing a downtown condo and the client took more time reviewing the property than I had allowed money in the meter for – to my clients getting a ticket because all parking by my office has a 2 hour limit and we’ve been out looking at property for more than two hours so they find a ticket on their car on the return to the office. I’ve had clients comment on the overzealous enforcement in Evanston and ultimately opt to buy in a community other than Evanston because of their being appalled at the aggressiveness of the enforcement. The balance between public service and public nuisance is clearly overweight to the nuisance side of the scale.

        1. Residential permit only
          “getting nailed in neighborhoods with residential permit only and no way to get a permit while showing a 1.5 million dollar home”

          Well..I think we all know who is to blame for this : the NIMBYs, of course. They don’t want outsiders parking in their neighborhood.

          As we all know, the most annoying NIMBYs in Evanston are on Central Street, and they don’t want outsiders parking on the streets near the Central St. Metra station. Why? If there are no meter spots left (as often was the case, at least before the Great Republican Depression of 2008), then people should park on the street.

          “to getting ticketed while showing a downtown condo and the client took more time reviewing the property than I had allowed money in the meter for”

          Well…this is just your fault…put a few more coins in the meter.

          “to my clients getting a ticket because all parking by my office has a 2 hour limit and we’ve been out looking at property for more than two hours”

          So what do you want? Unlimited free parking in front of your office? Then people will just park there and take the CTA or Metra downtown…or people who work in Evanston will just park there all day, and your customers still won’t have a parking space. Or do you just want free parking in front of your office for your clients only? If that is the case, I think that the City should find some way to charge you for the parking spot, and you could put a sign up saying it is reserved for your customers.

          Here is what I say: Extend the meters beyond 2 hours, and of course RAISE THE RATES! Maybe $1.50/hr. This won’t deter the quick shoppers, or even the restaurant crowd, if it can be done with a credit card. It will deter the long term parkers because the Sherman and Maple garages will be cheaper. Sometimes I just want to go into Peets to get a coffee …I wouldn’t mind paying a quarter for 10 minutes if it meant having a spot right in front.

          1. “So what do you want? Unlimited free parking”
            Since you ask…yes. Other north suburban communities have it. Is our model them or Chicago? Obviously the answer is we Evanstonians prefer to emulate the Chicago model. When shall we begin privatization/outsourcing/or whatever they try to call it?

            And you assume the office location is downtown. It’s not. Try the Central business district. There are no alternatives to street parking – no garages, etc. The residential side streets are permit only. The business spaces are 2 hour limits — and it’s simply a fact not all business can be conducted in under 2 hours – but our public parking policies are short sighted and don’t allow for that. Where there are long term spaces (along the metra tracks by the stations) there are insufficient numbers of long term spaces. These fill before the end of the morning commute – as a former commuter I can’t count the number of times I had to miss a train because I had to drive back home and find alternative transportation to the either the train station (for a later train) or my loop office because no parking was available by the train station.

            As for shortage of coins in the meter – the problem is the meters have short time limits – you can’t buy more time if you wanted to without leaving your clients and returning to your vehicle.

          2. Parking solution
            Well it sounds like the market is ripe for a private garage to be built to support the demand for parking in this area. Maybe a mixed retail/commercial building plus 200 car garage to expand the business district and capitalize on ‘reverse’ commuters from the Metra who could work in the area. Not to mention the benefit to your clients.
            Oh wait, you said Central Street? Nevermind, that would be a terrible idea totally wrong for the small charms of Old Town Evanston. You should move your place of business instead.

    2. No payboxes, please
      I like these meters over the paybox idea. The payboxes have several issues. They are less convenient – you often have to walk at least a half a block just to get your window ticket and then walk back – for a quick errand into a coffee shop or store, this is a nuisance. Plus, I’ve encountered in Chicago that often they are out of the paper stickers. You insert your money but you never get the paper you need for your windshield. Now what do you do? You’re out the money and you have the joy of walking yet another half a block to pay more money to get a ticket for windshield. Isn’t that fun to do in the winter? And at peak times around train stations or in lots like by the Old Town School of Music, lines form around the paybox and you have to wait your turn to pay while someone fumbles around trying to figure out how the paybox works, or digs for more quarters, or whatever it is that takes them so long to finish their purchase. Give me an individual meter. Better yet – let me buy a monthly, daily, or weekly parking pass instead of a per space per use method of paying for the privilege of shopping in the town I’ve lived in for over 30 years. Maybe I need to move up the Shore to a community that lets me park and shop and do business for free. Hmmm…there’s the best idea yet!

  3. Hm….
    I’m for the idea of being able to use a credit card, but how well does it work with motorcyles/scooters?

    How does it figure out a vehicle has left? Weight based system? Camera?

    Reply:
    The system supposedly senses the metal in the vehicle — disturbs a magnetic field. Don’t know whether scooters trigger it. But presumably if it doesn’t know a scooter has arrived, it won’t know it’s left either.
    — Bill

  4. “As we all know, the most
    “As we all know, the most annoying NIMBYs in Evanston are on Central Street, and they don’t want outsiders parking on the streets near the Central St. Metra station. Why? If there are no meter spots left (as often was the case, at least before the Great Republican Depression of 2008), then people should park on the street.”

    I disagree. The more annoying NIMBY’s are the huge homes along Orrington near the NU Campus, who are magically able to get parking restrictions on both sides of that street. The rest of us peons who live further west are only able to get resident parking on one side of our streets.

    The irony, of course, is that the closer you get to campus, the greater the demand for parking–an amenity which the university steadfastly refuses to provide to its own people on its own property. Note that the City of Evanston struggles along, but finds the means to subsidize parking structures. NU, with its multi-billion endowment, has built exactly one, and it’s not enough.

    So maybe NU is the most annoying NIMBY when it comes to parking.

  5. I am sick of the Evanstom

    I am sick of the Evanstom Parking enforcment writing me tickets every chance they get. I have a Handicap Placard and they still write me tickets all of the time. I dont have the time to go to their little parking ticket court everytime and have been booted 3 times for refusal to pay. Handicap place card means free parking at the meters.

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