Members of the Transporation and Parking Committee agreed Wednesday that Evanston should raise the time limit for on-street metered parking across the city from two to three hours.

Two hours has been the basic metered parking limit in the city for as long as anyone on the committee could remember.

It was initially imposed to assure that on-street parking slots were used by customers of businesses in shopping districts rather than being tied up all day by store employees and office workers.

But when three local residents showed up at Wednesday’s meeting to complain that the existing limit makes it difficult for customers of service and experiential businesses to shop here, they found a receptive audience on the committee.

“It’s really awkward, if I’m taking a class at The Pot Shop to have to clean the clay off my hands and run out to move my car,” said one of the residents.

The change, which had not been on the committee’s agenda, picked up support on the spot from business owners who had been there to address other issues.

An owner of the 818 Coworking space at 818 Lake St. said the two hour limit has impacted their business.

Parking Division Manager Jill Velan said she’d been getting feedback that the new pay station and parking app technology the city is adopting has made it easier to effectively enforce the two-hour limit, which means more people who overstay the limit or don’t move their cars far enough when they relocate them are finding themselves with tickets.

She said she’s received requests from the Downtown Evanston and Main Dempster Mile merchant groups  to increase the limit and has been considering an experiment to test the concept.

She said the mix of businesses in town has changed, with more here now that are likely to have longer customer visits.

Velan said she’d be opposed to raising the limit beyond three hours, unless the city were to switch to demand-based pricing, making the rate per hour for a longer stay greater than the rate for a short one. And she said didn’t think residents were ready for that change yet.

She said she could prepare an ordinance for consideration by the City Council, most likely next month, to implement the change to a three hour limit, and members of the committee agreed they were comfortable with that.

As one of the resident who prompted the discussion said, “There’s no way the peasants are going to storm the castle to defend the two-hour limit.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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