There are many aspects to parking in Oak Park. Overnight parking. Retail district parking. Commuter parking. Permit parking aimed at accommodating the varied needs of residents and shoppers. There are parking lots, enclaves, street parking, multiple garages. Of course, there is enforcement tied to most of the aforementioned.

So, lots of parts. Many of them expensive to acquire and maintain. All of them related to one another in complex and, often, conflicting ways.

And, until now, oversight of all those moving parts by the village government has been abysmal. You will find no one who disagrees. Not a resident trying to contend with all the rules and few of the benefits. Not a village trustee who most certainly hears more about parking than any other issue. Not the current village manager, Tom Barwin, who not only deals with the perpetually grinding gears of this mess, but also is facing up to the financial havoc parking woes cause a stressed village budget.

So, not only does the system not work well for basically anyone, it also costs all of us.

Would be fun to go back and assess blame. Who wasn’t paying attention, and this paper takes its share of the blame, when, for instance, parking garages were constructed with anvils about the neck of property taxpayers.  

But placing blame doesn’t put more nickels in the meter. Excuse us, quarters.

We sat in a meeting with the consultant hired by the village to make sense of this kaleidoscope of parking initiatives and listened as he explained how virtually every aspect of
Oak Park‘s parking plan was out of whack with the next aspect. If the garages are sinking the village through lack of use and underpricing, he said, you raise the rates and find ways to push customers into the garages. You do that, partly, by raising the prices at the prime parking meters so that meter feeding, by both customers and store employees, becomes oppressive.

The recommendations of the consultant, tweaked by staff in reasonable consultation with the business community, have now gone to the village board. The board, which is rightly cautious of antagonizing shoppers and retailers, ought to blink once and then vote for this package. Just do it.

Barwin’s plan calls for the hiring of a parking tsar (is the consultant looking for full-time work?) who can roll out the plan and continue to fine tune it. That ought to give the board comfort that further, logical, changes and enhancements (a validation program for key business districts) can still follow.

Just do it, two

While we are encouraging the
Oak Park village board to bold action we urge them to fast track Oak Park and River Forest High School‘s new request to light the stadium. There is no new information to be had here. There is a dedicated group, mostly of immediate neighbors, who vehemently oppose nighttime use of the stadium. Their arguments will not get stronger or less intense in the retelling.

Send the special use request immediately to the Plan Commission, give them a short turnaround to conduct the inevitable public hearings, and then bring it back to the board for a strong and positive endorsement.

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