Village looks to drive parking revenue

In response to significantly lower demand for Metra commuter parking as a result of the pandemic, Hinsdale officials are considering changes to regulations to attract lot users and boost revenue.

At Tuesday’s village board meeting, Village President Tom Cauley unveiled several staff recommendations prompted by his request for an assessment of village lot use at the Aug. 18 meeting. Village staff reported that commuter permit sales are just 25 percent of the level a couple of years ago and proposed allowing non-Hinsdale residents to buy parking permits for the main commuter lot north of the tracks between Washington and Lincoln streets, which has historically been reserved for village residents.

“It used to be that we had a 100-person excess on the waiting list pre-pandemic,” Cauley said of the rational of opening the lot up to nonresidents. “Now we’ve not only lost the excess on the list, we’ve lost three-quarters of the people that were parking there.”

With the work-from-home trend reducing the frequency of commutes, staff suggested offering a $3.50 daily parking fee option for those not wanting to buy a permit. This daily fee would be available in all red/blue parking areas and would be payable by a parking app.

Village lots also will have standardized permit hours of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The main lot currently allows anyone to park there after 9:15 a.m., which staff believes has led to more use by downtown merchants and employees in lieu of purchasing red merchant permits.

Assistant village manager Brad Bloom suggested curtailing that practice by requiring permits was a more fiscally responsible approach.

“We’ve kind of cannibalized our red permit areas because (merchants and employees) are parking for free in the village lot when they couldn’t before because of commuters filling the lot,” he said. “It’s just a better use of that commodity.”

The one-lane parking lot between the tracks and Burlington Park has designated merchant parking spaces but would be converted to commuter spaces and carry a higher daily fee than other lots.

“We think we can get premium cost for (that lot) because it is a very desirable location,” Cauley said. “I don’t know what we could charge for that, but we’re going to figure out some way to maximize the value of that. We just keep raising (the rate) until people don’t want to rent them anymore.”

In addition to the downtown parking areas, staff also recommended that 56 of the 82 spaces in the Robbins Park parking lot along Eighth Street be made available to Hinsdale Central students from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on school days for $400 a semester or $800 a year. The remainder of the spaces would have a four-hour limit to deter non-permitted students from parking there, preserving the spaces for users of the park and The Community House.

Commuters and merchants would still be able to purchase six-month permits for their designated lots, but they would now be able to apply online under the recommendations.

“Which brings us into the 21st century,” Cauley quipped. Trustees are expected to discuss the regulations again at their Tuesday, Sept. 20, meeting.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean