Parking in Oak Park — or the lack thereof — is perennially among the toughest problems for planners, but the village is working to simplify regulations, and it's calling on residents to participate in the process.
Oak Park Transportation Commission Chairman Jack Chalabian said at a special meeting on Nov. 9 that parking regulations are "by far, the most complex parking issues in Oak Park, in my opinion."
That's why the Transportation Commission and the village are embarking on a pilot project that aims to open up more parking spaces for those with parking permits and those who use overnight parking passes.
The parking forum, held at Brooks Middle School, drew dozens of residents concerned about how potential future changes would affect them.
The pilot program, which requires approval by the Oak Park Board of Trustees, would be bounded by South Boulevard, Harlem Avenue, Oak Park Avenue and Harrison Street.
Julie Dixon, a parking consultant with Dixon Resources Unlimited, said the test area currently has 3,800 parking spaces available for 4,583 single- and multi-family residences. A total of 752 residential overnight parking permits and 199 other permits are issued in the test area, she said.
Two proposals are being considered in an effort to open up more parking for residents. One proposal would institute an odd-even rule, wherein motorists with parking permits and overnight parking passes could park the odd side of the street on odd days of the week and the even side of the street on even days. That would require residents to move their cars every day.
Planners also presented an alternative 72-hour rule, which would allow motorists to park on either side of the street for 72 hours before receiving a ticket.
The odd-even proposal would create 1,400 spaces, while the 72-hour proposal would create 3,800 parking spots, according to Dixon.
"The idea here is that if we can solve the parking issues and simplify the process, then we can replicate this solution throughout the entire village," she said.
Dixon said license-plate recognition technology would allow village parking enforcement to determine whether a car was moved within the designated timeframe. New technology also allows residents to change the license plate number on the vehicle through an online portal, to allow easier access for delivery and worker vehicles.
"You register your license plate, and your license plate becomes your permit number, and it's basically how your enforcement officers can effectively manage the neighborhoods and the parking issues in those neighborhoods," she said.
Dixon said the 72-hour rule would negatively impact snow removal, and "might not be ideal for Oak Park," but the odd-even option would require residents to move their cars daily and open up fewer spaces.
Residents had different concerns about both of the potential plans. Resident Mark Blum said he was shocked the village was even considering the odd-even option.
"I have to move my car every day? Not possible," he said.
He argued that permit holders should not have to move their vehicles if they are parked in front of their condominium.
"That just doesn't make any sense either. I have a permit; I should be able to park there," he said.
Dixon said the 72-hour rule was being considered "so people don't just park their cars and leave them."
"It's to make sure you don't have vehicle abatement," she said.
Resident David Schwartz said he is favor of relaxing the overnight parking ban that prevents motorists from parking on the street overnight.
"The odd-even proposal seems unworkable," he said, noting that such an arrangement is "a recipe for marital problems."
"We have two cars and we park in our garage overnight, but to have one permit for the household, we're going to be fighting for that," he said.
Residents are encouraged to learn more about the potential pilot project and submit their suggestions online at www.oak-park.us/parkingpilot.
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