Paying for parking will be a cellphone call away in River Forest when the village rolls out the Passport Parking system this June for daily commuters.
The fee for daily parking will go from $1.50 to $2.50 and monthly permits will rise from $25 to $35 a month starting in May as part of the upgrades to the system approved by trustees last week.
Coin boxes, which have been in place for years, will remain although the village may offer incentives to get people to switch to the more high-tech approach of paying to park their cars. Staff is working through what those incentives might be, Village Administrator Eric Palm said.
The changes, which were discussed during a recent committee-of-the-whole meeting, had been studied by staff for the last couple of months, Palm said. Trustees approved the changes at last week's regular board meeting.
River Forest operates six commuter-dedicated parking lots. Three — at the Depot, Thatcher Avenue south of Lake Street; on Central Avenue west of Thatcher; and on Hawthorne west of Thatcher — are set aside for monthly permits. Approximately 126 daily parking spots are available on Hawthorne Avenue.
The study of commuter parking began as staff began assessing how the village can reduce or eliminate the waiting list for monthly parking permits, which can only be sold to River Forest residents. All 92 monthly passes are sold out; a waiting list of 20 dates back to January 2013.
A resident reached out to the village, noting that a large number of people using the daily parking spots lived outside of River Forest. Palm said staff surveyed the daily lots over three days in December and found that roughly 70 percent were from Oak Park, Forest Park and other communities; some had no vehicle stickers on their cars at all.
The option of setting aside more spaces for permit parkers was set aside as non-residents help offset the costs of operating the system, Palm said. He noted that reassigning daily spaces to monthly permit-holders could be confusing to residents.
The fee hikes will be re-evaluated after a few months to determine if they have had an impact on usage.
To make it easier for commuters, the village will go to the Passport system, a cashless option allowing users to pay via a free Passport Parking Mobile Pay app or voice telephone system. The app is available for both iPhone and Android users.
Simple registration instructions are located near each parking site. Once securely registered, motorists can use the mobile payment option with the app, call a toll-free number or text the zone and space information posted at the parking site. A valid credit card is required to use the system and a fee is levied for the initial transaction. Approximately 50 cents of the increase will offset the transaction fee.
The increase in the monthly permit will help cover the cost of ongoing maintenance of the lots and keep River Forest competitive with other communities.
Permit and daily parking fees are estimated to bring in $120,650 this year. Half goes to the general fund, the rest to the capital fund, Palm said.