Overnight parking: our favorite lightning rod

Opinion

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By John Hubbuch

It's always interesting to see a new village board take a crack at our sword-in-the-stone problem of overnight parking. Fame, glory and re-election await the board that can find a solution to our parking problems.

The current board, led by its "We Built It" president, thinks now is a good time to take a look at this historic annoyance. I guess I should applaud the effort, but it feels a little bit like District 200's efforts to close the achievement gap. Many, many high school boards with lots of well-intentioned, smart people, relying on the advice of experts, have spent lots of time and energy trying to solve a problem that may have no better solution than the despised status quo.

Maybe this time it will be different.

But if we're going to take yet another look at overnight parking, let's start with the obvious: we have too many cars and not enough convenient spaces. Oak Park has probably the best transportation grid in Illinois. We have the Blue Line, the Green Line, the Metra train, I-car, bike lanes, busses — everything except horse-drawn carriages.

We already have lots of parking spaces already authorized in lots and other places that sit empty at night because citizens are too lazy or too afraid to use them.

Then there is the reality that, like moving next to O'Hare or a Hooters, the overnight parking ban is well known to all before they move here. I could move to Texas, but if I did, I probably shouldn't complain about their Tea Party craziness. Just who is the aggrieved here?

So I don't feel all that bad if you can't park your car overnight on a street right next to your front door. The trustees might want to consider the economic principle of the unintended effect, more commonly known as "no good deed goes unpunished." Making it easier to park your car overnight will encourage more people to move here with more cars and those of us already here to buy another one.

Removing a disincentive is equivalent to providing an incentive. Mom and Dad each need a car to drive to their office downtown, Sis needs to drive to school, and little brother is getting his license. More cars, more congestion, and yet we oppose widening the Eisenhower.

The overnight parking ban debate is Oak Park at its selfish, self-centered worst. We want to live in a densely populated suburb because we like the urban feel and the proximity to Chicago, and we want to be green and be environmentally responsible, but we want the space and convenience of Hinsdale or Woodstock. We want the crime rate of Manteno, but we live next to one of the highest crime neighborhoods in Chicago. We expect our schools to do as well as Kenilworth schools despite very different student demographics.

How about this: double the price on the yearly car stickers, and use the money for bikes or more cops so people won't be afraid to walk three blocks. It's ridiculously obvious: the problem is not too few spaces, it's too many cars. We should do something about that, not the other way around.

At least we're not the federal government which can apparently be shut down over politics. That can never happen here. Thank God there are seven trustees on the village board. Seven is an odd number.

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