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Could credit card parking meters come to downtown Hinsdale?

<p>Sun-Times Media file photo</p>

Sun-Times Media file photo

More expensive parking meters that accept credit cards may be coming to Hinsdale if the Village Board accepts the recommendations of a planning agency.

The village received a technical assistance grant from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to help Hinsdale make better use of its downtown parking spaces.

Earlier this year, the planning agency team surveyed people who park in the downtown, and analyzed the existing parking and how it is used.

Senior planner Lindsay Bayley discussed strategies Oct. 17 to alleviate the parking problem with a steering committee, comprised of representatives of the Hinsdale Police Department, downtown business owners, Metra and residents.

The meters on the street should charge more than the meters in lots because the street parking is more convenient, Bayley said. People should pay for that convenience. The higher cost also could encourage people to use the parking lots that are a little farther from their destination, but cheaper.

While parking spots on the streets are usually full, empty spaces can be found in lots that are a 5-minute walk from the heart of downtown, “which most people are not willing to walk,” Bayley said.

Better education and clearer maps might help people find parking that is available in the downtown, other than on the street.

Younger people, in particular, who work part-time in some of the coffee shops, might not be aware of the free parking lots a short distance away, but might be willing to park there, Bayley said.

Many employees, however, park in the spots closest to the businesses and then monopolize the spaces, which have a two-hour limit, by feeding the meters, when their time expires.

Bayley suggested some lots could have progressive pricing where the first hour or two of parking is the cheapest, and each hour after that gets more expensive. That way people who park in a space for hours pay a higher rate than someone making a quick stop.

The meters could be changed to accept credit cards, so people do not have to look for coins.

Police Chief Bradley Bloom liked the idea of meters that accept credit cards and progressive pricing, but the business community will have to support those changes. Otherwise, drivers will assume the village simply wants to raise more revenue, he said.

Bloom would like to see more meters that are for short-term parking, as short as 15 minutes, for people running errands.

During the day, parking spaces in the commuter lots by the downtown Metra station are always in demand. If commuters would park at the West Hinsdale or Highland Metra station, it would free up spaces downtown. But Bayley acknowledged the downtown station is the most popular because the express trains to and from Chicago stop there.

Kristen Andersen, a transportation planning analyst for Metra and a member of the committee, said Metra was not receptive to the idea of adjusting their schedule to have express trains stop at different Hinsdale stations.

Bailey suggested campaigns to promote walking and bicycling.

“If you could get 10 percent of the people driving downtown (to walk or ride a bicycle there), your parking problem would be gone.”

Bayley expects to incorporate the feedback from the committee and, in November, prepare a plan with recommended actions. A public meeting will be scheduled for community input, before the plan is presented to the Village Board.

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