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Parking occupies many towns' agendas

Three nearby towns offer insight into ways Hinsdale can manage its expanding supply


Last updated 4/1/2020 at 4:03pm | View PDF

Jim Slonoff

The free parking deck in downtown La Grange significantly improved the village's ability to accommodate shoppers and diners, just as the impending opening of Hinsdale's two-level deck next to Hinsdale Middle School will do for its central business district. Hinsdale would like business employees to use the deck to open more on-street spots for visitors. (Jim Slonoff photo)

With the downtown parking deck scheduled to be completed in a couple of months, Hinsdale officials are exploring ways to optimize use of an expanded central business district parking supply for visitors, business employees and commuters.

The two-level, 319-space deck going up at First Street and Garfield Avenue will be shared with the adjacent Hinsdale Middle School. The village will have exclusive use of the 189 spaces on the lower level, which represents a 40 percent increase in the downtown’s parking capacity.

Officials are considering a proposal to offer free on-street parking for up to three hours and free parking for up to six hours in the deck. Employees would be instructed to use the deck in order to keep the street spaces open for business patrons. But some village trustees would like to maintain on-street parking fees for nonresidents, who studies suggest take up about 80 percent of the spaces during peak times. Doing so, they believe, would prevent all of the current meter revenue from being lost and would encourage use of the free deck. Village staff have presented other methods for replacing that nearly $200,000 in annual revenue, among which are increases to vehicle sticker and commuter permit prices.

Neighboring communities, of course, also have faced similar questions when it comes to managing their central business district parking supply. To better understand parking needs of shoppers, employees and commuters, The Hinsdalean examined three surrounding towns with similar characteristics to Hinsdale to see how they addressed the issue (see sidebar for more details).

In Elmhurst, free three-hour parking is available throughout the central business district. Daily parking spaces are available for $2. The city uses license plate reader technology to make sure drivers are not moving from one space to another to try to park for more than three hours.

The village conducted a parking study in 2015 in advance of the opening of the 689-space Addison Avenue parking deck.

“The first and foremost policy goal should be that adequate free shopper parking spaces should be provided for in appropriate locations to meet consumer demand,” the study report read. “(W)here free shopper parking spaces are maintained, the spaces should actually be available for use by consumers at all times, in order to benefit the entire (central business district) and the city as a whole. To achieve this goal, parking by commuters and employees in free shopper parking spaces should be discouraged.”

City residents and nonresidents and treated equally in the parking system. The study concluded that central business district employees also are very likely to be consumers within the downtown.

License plate reading is also expected to be implemented in Hinsdale, according to Brad Bloom, assistant village manager and director of public safety.

“Recently we have been discussing the technology side to find out how to interface the license plate readers with the enforcement and back-end support software,” Bloom said.

Downers Grove also uses the technology, according to the village’s communications director, Doug Kozlowski.

“We do use license plate readers for enforcement of on-street time-zoned parking,” he said. “If there’s a time limit on the spot, that’s where they use the license plate readers.”

Kozlowski cited the downtown parking study in the village’s 2019 year-end review, which prioritized the development of a long-range parking plan. Downers Grove worked with a consultant to address the increasing pressure on parking supply. Officials learned, among other findings, that on-street parking occupancy had increased since 2011 by 4.9 percent while off-street parking (deck and several surface lots) decreased by 6.5 percent. The village’s transportation and parking commission is currently reviewing the study to inform its recommendations.

Kozlowski indicated that merchants and employees of the central business district comply with instructions that they use the lots set aside for their use.

“We do have employer permits on a quarterly basis for designated areas for $25 a quarter,” he said.

In La Grange, village manager Andrianna Peterson said the town continues to analyze and refine the apportioning of its parking supply.

“La Grange, like many of our neighbors in the western suburbs, seeks to manage parking in a way that balances the interests of a myriad of stakeholders, such as residents, customers, business owners and employees, commuters and students,” Peterson said. “We employ a multi-disciplined approach to managing this dynamic issue. Our management team, in concert with the village board, community and economic development commission and our business community, regularly evaluates parking matters.

“Periodically the village also undertakes a comprehensive review of local parking dynamics through parking and related studies,” she added.

A number of surrounding municipalities have grappled with — and continue to tweak — their downtown parking systems. While each town has unique characteristics, Hinsdale would seem to have a abundance of case studies to draw from.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 630-323-4422, ext 103


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