What Are Your Gripes About Parking in Evanston?

Add your parking questions to the comments section below, and Patch Columnist Christine Wolf will bring them to the attention of Marty Lyons, assistant city manager of Evanston.

, on the northeast corner of Dodge Avenue and Church Street, has steadily become an Evanston institution for dance and music lessons, sound recording, artistic expression and many other creative endeavors. Its location, diagonally across from Evanston Township High School, also makes it a natural oasis for students to drop in.

But, if you’ve seen that intersection lately, you’ve noticed the ongoing street construction and its surprising new look. Where there used to be a bus “cutout” on the southeast corner, there’s now a sidewalk the size of a kids’ soccer field (okay that’s an exaggeration, but not by much). The two single-lanes of traffic, heading east and west, appear not to provide much, if any, room for metered parking spaces in front of (or even across from) Boocoo. So what’s the plan? Are the metered spaces coming back? How will students, performers and guests getting dropped off or unloading equipment gain access to Boocoo without causing a traffic nightmare?

On Friday, August 10, I sent an email to Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz on this matter, copying Alicia Hempfling, Boocoo’s chief administrator. Hempfling then added this message to the email thread:

Mr. Bobkiewicz:

I am the administrator at the Boocoo Cultural Center at 1823 Church St. and I have some serious concerns about the street construction going on at Church and Dodge.  Although several weeks ago I have read the description of the work that was being done, I saw nothing at that time that indicated the narrowing of the street and loss of parking.  Apparently, since the sidewalk of the south east corner has been expanded, this narrows the street directly in front of Boocoo, restricting that part of Church to one lane of traffic going each way and NO parking.  This almost surely will cause a bottleneck effect on this corner.  My greatest concern is that we have parents dropping their children off for music lessons on a daily basis, and we often have large pieces of heavy music equipment that has to be loaded in and out of Boocoo.  We are getting more traffic here at Boocoo with expanding programming and this design is most certainly going to be problematic.  Additionally, there has been much discussion about building up the businesses and industry in this community, particularly this corner.  Taking convenient parking away, especially for loading and unloading will not help our businesses and if fact, can make it more difficult for many of our customers.  Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon on this matter.

Alicia O. Hempfling, Administrator
Boocoo Cultural Center
1823 Church St.
Evanston, IL  60201

Shortly thereafter, Marty Lyons, Assistant City Manager/Treasurer, agreed to meet with me on Tuesday, August 13, ; I also plan to ask him about the situation at Church and Dodge, as well as any other parking-related issues readers add in the comments section.

How ironic: last week I wrote about between Church and Clark; this week's column focuses on how, just down the road, there aren't nearly enough...

Christine Wolf August 13, 2012 at 02:47 PM
I've been thinking the exact same thing and keeping my fingers crossed there's a "grand plan" we just don't know about. I'll be sure to ask Marty Lyons about this (and all the questions) when I see him Tuesday.
Christine Wolf August 13, 2012 at 02:48 PM
As the parent of an incoming freshman, I'm thinking the same thing, Annie. I never paid too much attention to that corner's traffic until this summer when I did the occasional dropoff/pickup during summer school. I can't fathom what the regular school year's traffic will bring...
Christine Wolf August 13, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Great questions. How forthcoming do you think the City would be with info like that?
Jennifer Fisher (Editor) August 13, 2012 at 02:51 PM
That would be very interesting information! I suspect they keep track of parking meter revenue by year, so we could ask for it.
Jennifer Fisher (Editor) August 13, 2012 at 02:52 PM
I totally agree about the credit card reader. The ones in Chicago are so easy to use! I wonder how expensive it would be to install one?
Meagan Novara August 13, 2012 at 02:54 PM
After living in the police-state that is Chicago parking for 10 years, everything about Evanston parking seems more than reasonable to me.
Jennifer Fisher (Editor) August 13, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Haha, I know what you mean about Chicago. It's almost like the signs are designed to confuse you...wait, it's OK to park here because it's not a Cub's night game. But it says permit parking only? So do both conditions apply? And is it time for street cleaning? What about those temporary paper no-parking signs? Or the yellow lines fading from the sidewalk? Where does the fire hydrant no-parking zone really begin? :)
Matt Stump August 13, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Parking in Evanston is one of the biggest hassles of living here. For some reason, parking enforcement seems to follow me around and I have been cited several times including once while I was going to a bank to get quarters to feed the meter. Ticketed within 2 minutes of parking! Yet, I always see parking enforcement jeeps parked illegally either in handicap spots or no parking zones when they are getting lunch or stopping to chat with someone. I agree that if you are an actual resident of Evanston, having paid the tax to have a vehicle here that parking enforcement has to be a little less aggressive. My wife and I have left Evanston to go shopping in other towns simply because we were afraid to park along the street for fear getting another parking violation.
bernadette schleis August 13, 2012 at 04:14 PM
I, too, rarely shop in Evanston because of the parking costs and parking restrictions.
Rick August 13, 2012 at 04:35 PM
I haven't fed a parking meter in Evanston in years, except when I feed the expired meter of another person's car just for the pleasure of foiling the parking Nazis. I prefer to walk three or four blocks to avoid metered spaces or do my shopping in Wilmette. Others above have remarked on the overzealousness of the enforcement people lurking around in their little Jeeps. The enforcers, in my experience, sometimes act like rude little martinets; they should keep in mind that the people they're stalking and sometimes harassing do things like vote in referendums on issues like funding of public pensions.
lucas August 13, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Actually I think all the meters in Evanston are TWO Hour meters. I believe they mark your tires to see if you moved.
lucas August 13, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Since they recently spent over two million dollars to purchase a couple of properties to create parking lots for TJ's I assume they are making millions.
Lightsleeper August 13, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Evanston needs to adjust parking rates. It's far too inexpensive and residents are being cheated out of revenue. We pay for installation and upkeep for these parking spaces, but we're like landlords with rent-controlled properties. If you can't find a parking space, it's because the meters aren't charging enough. Other municipalities like Minneapolis are using smart meters that present usage-tuned variable rates, and it's paying off for them. Add credit card readers and set prices to market rates!
lucas August 13, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Lightsleeper They did adjust them earlier this year. Raised the rate. You can park free in Wilmette
Elizabeth August 13, 2012 at 07:16 PM
My family and I often shop in other towns (chiefly Wilmette) because of the free parking. We do not often park in metered areas in Evanston. I disagree with people who say that Evanston ought to raise their parking rates. If I want to go to a town with exorbitant parking rates, all I need to do is go to Chicago. Even though I was born and raised there, I rarely shop or eat in Chicago now, because of the horrendous parking situation. Evanston is a little better, but not by much. The nasty Evanston parking enforcers are petty and overly zealous. I think they forget that WE (the good citizens of Evanston) are ultimately their bosses, and WE have the authority to make adjustments to the city regulations.
Elizabeth August 13, 2012 at 07:23 PM
I believe that credit card readers ARE more convenient. But then, it becomes SO much easier for the municipality to raise the parking rates. Just look at Chicago, if anyone wants to see what I mean. By actually feeding a meter, the people using parking meters are much more conscious of exactly how much the municipality charges.
Elizabeth August 13, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Hmm. Let's see. There is a Traffic Institute at Northwestern University. This might be an elementary idea, but why can't the City of Evanston partner with the Traffic Institute at NU and take care of some of these trouble spots around town? I hear about the Town VERSUS Gown problems between Evanston and NU from time to time. Why not some Town/Gown COOPERATION?? This traffic difficulty near ETHS is not the first situation I've heard about. (And I have two children attending ETHS this year, besides, so I am very interested in the eventual outcome.) In this specific case, the case of the Church/Dodge intersection, the safety of a great many of our children is at stake, as well as the smooth operation of traffic at very busy times of the day. So, how about it, City of Evanston? How about it, Northwestern? How about a little cooperation?
M.W. August 13, 2012 at 07:35 PM
I have lived in Evanston for almost 3 years now after growing up in Chicago. I honestly don't mind the parking rates/restrictions in the buisness districts because, let's face it, it's the norm. What really ticks me off is the moving of my car twice a week EVERY week in my neighborhood. Seriously? They can't plan one or two days a month and then post a sign? I would much rather move my car the second Tuesday of every month than every week. It's down right inconvenient.
Jim Caldwell August 13, 2012 at 09:19 PM
I'm not sure what neighborhood you live in, Meghan, but a vast majority of the streets in Evanston are cleaned on either a bi-weekly or tri-weekly basis*. This page** at the city's website has both a map of the differing designations (primary or residential street) and the scheduled dates for cleaning. Regardless of what The Signs*** say, Evanston hasn't had weekly sweeping for at least 18 years, but the signs remain the same. There's a question for Mr. Lyons, Christine: Why are our street sweeping signs inaccurate? *There's also a separate, once-monthly schedule for the few streets with single-sided parking. Adding that above would have made for a rather awkward sentence, so hello footnote. **http://www.cityofevanston.org/parking/street-cleaning/ *** "Follow the posted signs" is one of my least favorite phrases uttered by City officials. They are vaguely true while being specifically inaccurate, and the City seems content that their signs encourage misinformed (the city does not ticket on weeks they do not sweep), or low-information residents to move their every week or risk tickets.
Jennifer Fisher (Editor) August 13, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Jim, I love that phrase "vaguely true while being specifically inaccurate." As someone who parks all around the city, I have just been taking my chances with the street sweeping, and making a guess based on whether there are other cars on the street. I'm sure I will get nailed with a ticket some time, though. For what it's worth, I do know that you can sign up for e-mails from the city on where street sweeping is going on each week at https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/ILEVANSTON/subscriber/new
M.W. August 13, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Jim, you seriously made by day! My husband, myself and 99% of our neighbors just follow the posted signs. They are literally everywhere in South Evanston. And it's not just the blocks I have lived on. Every week as I walk to the train on the morning of "sweep" days I see people in pajama pants frantically trying to move their cars before 9 am. Because when you try to contest a parking ticket, the very first question you're asked is "was there a sign?". And let's face it, the parking enforcement in this city is TOUGH. We are simply not aware that it is only on certain days. We, acting as good citizens, believe the information put in front of us. Who would park their car, see a sign and then hop online to see if it is still accurate? Frankly, if it has been "for years" then why haven't the signs been changed? I'm sure that there will be some "lack of resources" type answer from the city, but I think that's hooey. I highly doubt that in 18 years they have never once had enough money to replace them.
millie August 14, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Meghan I've lived in South Evanston for a little over 20 years. The street sign you see are the same ones.
Debirag August 14, 2012 at 05:03 AM
What bothers me is that while I pay for a residential permit in my Central Street area block, it is good for 7-9A.M. only, while every other residential district near a business district in Evanston limits non-residents to two hour parking, the result being that all those who work around my neighborhood get a full day's parking for free, while we residents have to drive around looking for a place to park after we pull up to our doors to unload our packages! Not fair. Furthermore, when signatures were collected years ago complaining about our lack of non-resident restrictions, instead of giving us consideration, the city paid a fortune to an outside consultant who wrote that while residents are bending over backwards to accommodate non resident cars, not to change anything. She took her money and left us in the same position as before, giving the impression she'd been paid to accommodate the Central Street business owners.
John C Thomson August 14, 2012 at 08:09 AM
I don't think I've seen an article where the comments were almost 100% in agreement with each other. This parking enforcement group should be given the job of cleaning up the gangs because they are ruthless. I'm sitting in an alley next to my apartment building where I have lived for 34 years, my car is running and I am waiting for my wife, A-ticket the Hun, comes up behind me and points to the sign that says No Parking, my feeble attempt at explaining that I wasn't parked but waiting, was to no avail, finally I told him that I knew the city needed the money so go ahead and give me the ticket. Thats when he went furious. We do know that we play roulette when we park there to drop off kids, or groceries or even when folks move.
J.Lyn August 14, 2012 at 12:30 PM
I am a life long resident of the North Shore. There was a time that I would come into Evanston for a day of strolling...shopping...eating. I would spend alot of money that I could have spent in other villages but I loved my time in Evanston. The cost of parking and parking restrictions has driven me away. The last time I spent the better part of the day looking at my watch to make sure my meter did not run out...or to move my car when my time limit expired. It's stressful and unpleasant. I am now spending my time (and money) in the suburbs that have free parking. The city should consider alternate methods of earning revenue...or at the least have a week day or two of free parking. This has been a topic of discussion between my friends who also do not reside in Evanston...and many feel the same way...so I know I am not the only one! It's Evanston's loss.
Christine Wolf August 14, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Brilliant, Elizabeth. Who knows NU President Morton Shapiro and can forward this idea to him?
TAKH August 14, 2012 at 05:48 PM
My gripe is having to carry two pounds of change around in my car. When will Evanston come into the 21st century and allow payment by credit card or even a city issued parking card would work? Please someone at city hall give Ann Arbor MI a call and find out who redid their parking system. It's GREAT! The spaces are numbered, you go to a kiosk on the block, put in your space number, pay and off you go! No change needed and unlike Chicago, no need to head back to your car to put piece of paper in the window.
Jim Caldwell August 14, 2012 at 05:53 PM
The city has that specific set-up for parking under the Public Library.
mij August 14, 2012 at 06:42 PM
There will be less Parking Spots in Downtown Evanston once they finish putting in the protected bike lanes. They plan on taking some for bike parking.
Christine Wolf August 15, 2012 at 03:44 PM
I met with City officials yesterday afternoon to discuss all of the parking issues mentioned above, and they report they're happy to research and address all of them.


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