By Larry Atseff

After many years of going back and forth on the subject of removal of parking meters in the Hinsdale downtown business district, several factors have fallen into place and the meters are now gone. Sometimes, timing is everything. Here’s how and why it happened. A little background. Past studies done in 2014 by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) confirmed that the parking meters had become counterproductive. While the meters certainly generated revenue, as many as 30% of the meters were taken up by merchants and employees who simply fed the meters all day long. In turn, this caused congestion, and frustration, as people drove around looking for open spaces. An untold number of those potential customers have simply decided to go elsewhere, resulting in lost revenue. Fortunately, the addition of the parking deck helped relieve some of the problem.

In August of 2020, the Village opened a parking deck on the footprint of the former middle school in order to increase parking capacity in downtown Hinsdale. The two-level parking garage has a total of 319 spaces. There are 189 spaces on the ground level that are available for public use. There are 133 spaces on the top deck for school staff and visitors. They are available to the public when school is not in session. “The opening of the parking deck in 2020 provided an excellent opportunity for the Village staff to study different parking strategies. We were able to leverage the additional parking capacity provided by the deck with a mechanism to free up parking spaces for retail shoppers”. Kathleen Gargano, Village Manager. Then, early in 2022, Police Chief Brian King was asked to evaluate the entire parking situation and make recommendations. He took into account how the parking meters in the central business district were being used, to the positive impact of the parking deck, to the availability of new technology that could make it easier and more effective to monitor how long people were taking up spaces that really should be used by shoppers. Chief King made the following recommendations, in collaboration with other village staff: The village should implement a zoned parking strategy and replace the parking meters. The goal of zoned parking is to create vacancies that make spaces available that are the closest and most convenient for shoppers.

The Police Department would work with the Chamber of Commerce to assist business owners and their employees in finding and utilizing merchant parking in more use of the parking deck. It was determined that the best way to implement a zoned parking strategy was to establish a free 3-hour parking period in place of meters that would give shoppers adequate time to do their shopping. It is designed to provide enough time for a shopper to complete more than one task without moving their vehicle, and an improvement over the 2-hour time limit when meters were in place. In the parking zone, there would also be several 15-minute time zone parking at the corners. Those spaces are intended for quick pick-up and drop-offs and do not count towards the three-hour zone parking. The diagram shows the zoned area, and where the 15-minute spaces are located. Lastly, the village should implement recently developed license plate reader technology (LPR) as a means of enforcement. A license plate reader attached to the parking control vehicle records license plates as it passes parked vehicles, virtually marking the vehicles in the zone.

“We are fortunate to have a vibrant business district. The construction of the parking deck, the removal of the parking meters, and the establishment
of zone parking is the Village Board’s commitment to ensure that vibrancy for future generations.”

If a vehicle in the parking zone is parked longer than 3 hours, a ticket will be issued. Obviously, when people need more than three hours, they can use the nearby parking deck, or the Washington, Garfield or Village lots. It is expected that these steps will create a turnover of spaces to ensure that parking spaces are available for the intended users-retail shoppers in the central business district. The police department will even have staff on hand as “parking ambassadors” to assist with the conversion to Zone Parking, and answer questions. As Tom Cauley, Village President said, “We are fortunate to have a vibrant business district. The construction of the parking deck, the removal of the parking meters, and the establishment of zone parking is the Village Board’s commitment to ensure that vibrancy for future generations.” You are cordially invited by the merchants and the Village to take advantage of the 3-Hour Free Parking Zone in Hinsdale’s central business district.

*Photos by Marcello Rodarte

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