Village seeks downtown parking road map

Hoping to optimize parking use in Hinsdale’s central business district, the village has enlisted a consultant to evaluate various facets of the complex issue over the next few weeks.

“We’re just trying to figure out if we’re using the spaces as best as we possibly can,” Hinsdale Deputy Police Chief Tom Lillie said.

Visitors to the downtown know well the challenge of finding a parking spot at peak times. Even after the addition of the parking deck and its nearly 200 spaces (and more than 300 when the middle school’s closed) in 2020, available spots still can seem like a scarce resource. Conversely, outdoor dining began eating into street parking capacity about the same time.

Consultant Tom Forster, mobility and parking planner for the firm Fishbeck, said his team will be looking at the supply and demand.

“We’ll look at who’s allocated to park where and see if (that allocation) is doing the best for the community,” Forster said. “We’ll be doing a lot of observation in town to see how the village is working in order to report what we think is the best way to use the parking that we have.”

He noted that patrons, store employees and commuters are all vying for parking, but not necessarily over the same time frames.

“You’ve got a lot of user groups.” Forster remarked. “How you accommodate all those different desires is key, for sure.”

The last downtown parking study was conducted by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning in 2014. The analysis indicated that up to 30 percent of available meter parking was taken up by merchants and their employees. The village subsequently instituted a zoned parking and permit system to designate areas for user groups. Police Chief Brian King said officials want to make sure the parking policies are still effective.

“The goal is still to create turnover and make it easy for customers to find convenient parking when patronizing restaurants and businesses in Hinsdale,” he said.

Lillie echoed that, saying the garage has altered the landscape since the CMAP study.

“We want to evaluate the effectiveness of all these different systems that we have in place as it relates to parking,” he said.

Lillie said the most common complaints the department receives concern people occupying the 15-minute spaces beyond the time limit and business employees parking in prime spots for customers.

“There are permits for garage use available for employers of the downtown area, but some employees will still park in front of the businesses that they work at,” he said. “We want to make those spaces available to shoppers and patrons.”

From permit pricing to signage to enforcement, officials say the study will be comprehensive. Forster said while every community is different, the desire for convenience is universal.

“People want to park near their destination. Patrons generally like things hassle free,” he said.

Forster, who is holding one-on-one meetings with business owners this week, said he will bring a objective lens to the issue.

“It’s always good to have a set of outside eyes take a look at what you’re doing and make recommendation,” he said.

The village earmarked $19,000 for the service in its 2024 budget. King believes it’s a wise investment.

“Parking is a resource, and a parking consultant ensures that we are managing that resource effectively in a manner that best serves those that shop, visit and work in our central business district,” King said.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean