Hinsdale officials ready to make changes to downtown parking

Like many people who live and shop in Hinsdale, the village trustees believe it’s time to do something specific to improve parking in the downtown.

Lindsay Bayley, senior planner with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, last week presented the findings of the analysis her staff did of parking in Hinsdale’s downtown to the Hinsdale Village Board.

At no cost to the village, members of the agency’s staff conducted traffic counts, community interviews and an online survey between January and June 2013. Their goal was to recommend ways the existing parking supply in downtown Hinsdale could be better managed.

We’ve got the data now, so let’s take action, and take decisive action, while this is all fresh and relevant,” said Village Trustee Jerry Hughes said.

“I do think it’s time to stop studying it and move ahead,” Trustee Bill Haarlow said.

Bayley said her team heard that from the public, too.

Hughes identified two key objectives: eliminating employees from monopolizing the prime parking spaces right in front of the businesses, and have different parking rates based on how convenient a space is and how long a driver parks there.

Bayley said village officials should make clear their objective is to free up parking spaces in the village, not make money from the meters.

“You will make more money from a thriving downtown, than you will ever make from a parking meter,” Bayley said.

The goal would be to have 10 to 15 percent of the parking spaces in the heart of the downtown available during the daytime.

Their study confirmed many people who go downtown end up circling blocks repeatedly looking for a free space by a meter and, sometimes, leaving in frustration.

“I drive around and then I give up,” was an example of the comments received via the online survey, Bayley reported.

By 10 a.m. on weekdays, the parking spaces in the core of the downtown “are 90 to sometimes more than 100 percent full, with people parking illegally,” Bayley said.

The study found that from 15 to perhaps as high as 30 percent of the prime on-street spaces are being used by employees of the downtown businesses.

For part-time employees, it’s cheaper to feed the meters, at a quarter an hour, while they are working, than to buy a parking permit, Bayley said.

That pricing equation should be adjusted, with the village offering free parking for employees not in the heart of the downtown, but at a convenient walk from the businesses where they are headed, Bayley said.

The price for the on-street meters should be raised, too.

The cost of parking is the only proven disincentive for employees who regularly park for hours in the same spot, Bayley said.

The village also should designate certain spots or parking lots for long-term parkers, such as people who have appointments at salons in town for treatments that take three hours or more.

Bayley recommended “using pricing to balance parking demand with options for longer stays and various payment methods.”

The village could consider getting meters that accept credit or debit cards for payment.

Another option would be cheaper and perhaps easier to implement would be to convert the long, narrow parking lot on the north side of Fuller’s Home & Hardware store to a “premier” lot with higher rates.

The higher cost would mean the lot probably would not fill up as fast. The benefit would be drivers could go there, confident they would find an open space.

The next step will be the village’s Zoning and Public Safety Committee will recommend what courses of action the village should pursue.

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