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Parking meter rate hike proposed

Evanston officials are proposing a 50 percent increase in parking meter rates downtown and a $5 hike in monthly parking rates in the city’s garages.

Finance Director Matthew Grady says the boosts are necessary to cover expected rises in operating costs and debt payments on bonds used to build the garages and to create reserves to fund major repairs or ultimate replacement of the garages.

The changes would raise downtown parking meter rates to 75-cents per hour and monthly permit rates to $85.

The plan calls for leaving meter rates outside downtown unchanged. Those rates doubled last year from 25-cents to 50-cents per hour. Hourly garage rates and monthly rates in surface parking lots would also remain unchanged.

Parking Committee members Wednesday said they wanted more detail on expenses before voting on the increases.

Public works Director David Jennings said that in many blocks downtown meter spaces "are running at or above 100 percent of capacity many hours of the day" while spaces are available in the garages.

That, he said, led to the decision to raise the meter rates while leaving the hourly garage rates unchanged.

For people to have an easy time finding parking downtown, Mr. Jennings added, experts suggest the city should try to reduce metered space occupancy levels to 85 percent.

Committee member Jonathan Perman said, "I’m so delighted that we’re finally talking about demand-driven pricing."

Airlines and hotel operators have long used that to maximize revenue, he added.

Mr. Perman, executive director of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, said the city has huge fixed costs for its garages no matter how many cares are there.

"We should be seriously talking about innovative ways to adjust pricing and provide performance incentives in the contract for the private firm operating garages to encourage that," he said.

Travis Marlatte, chair of the Downtown Evanston Merchants Association, said he agreed with the proposal to raise meter rates, and suggested adjusting garage rates so that users willing to park on the less-convenient upper floors would pay less.

That, he suggested, would encourage all-day parkers to use the upper floors while providing more convenience for people making short-term shopping trips to retail stores.

Transportation Director John Burke said that new access control equipment being installed in the garages will give the city much more pricing flexibility.

The increases are projected to raise about $725,000 in new revenue each year. The proposed changes would go into effect next March, if they ultimately are approved by the City Council.

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