By Anna Lothson
That's right. The words free and parking are being used together in Oak Park — at least for Saturdays during the holiday season.
A request from the village president sparked village staff to write up an ordinance allowing up to two hours of free metered parking at any meter in the village and in all village-owned parking garages on weekends during holiday shopping. This request also came from business districts representatives. The item was approved at Monday's village board meeting.
Previously, parking garages have been free during holiday times, but this change would allow for free weekend metered parking starting the Friday after Thanksgiving and continuing every Saturday leading up to Christmas Day. The request also proposes that free parking be offered at garages and meters on July 4.
The free-parking plan is being done in large part to help encourage people to shop in Oak Park for the holidays, but it also comes with a financial cost to the village.
Free parking at meters would reduce parking revenue by an estimated $17,769, according to a village report. Expenditures would also increase by an estimated $10,000, because the village would have to purchase meter bags and pay staff to place the bags over the meters for the designated free days. The July 4 expense is anticipated to reduce revenue by about $2,778 annually. Decreased revenue from offering free parking in garages on Saturdays amounts to around $16,668.
According the report, the village incurs $3,000 in administrative costs annually to program the parking garage payment system to accommodate the free Friday after Thanksgiving, plus free Saturdays through Dec. 25.
Parking on Sundays is always free in the garages.