The members of the River Forest Village Board were generally receptive to recommendations in a comprehensive commuter parking study presented by a transportation engineering consulting firm at the May 26 virtual village board meeting.
The exceptions to the recommendations made by Kenig, Lindgren, O’Hare, Alboona Inc. (KLOA) were to switch the parking lane on Central Avenue near River Forest Village Hall from the north side to the south side and to maintain free street parking around the campuses of Concordia and Dominican universities.
The village board awarded the $24,500 parking study contract to KLOA last October. In making his presentation, Eric Russell of KLOA said a key component to the study was a parking questionnaire that drew 348 responses from residents and non-resident commuters who park in village lots or on village streets.
Trustees Tom Cargie and Bob O’Connell argued against maintaining free street parking around the university campuses, instead advocating the installation of metered parking. But were in the minority on the issue and the KLOA recommendation was approved.
Cargie noted that residents who use the Metra station lots are required to pay for parking but students and faculty members of the universities, who are not residents, do not have to pay to park on streets near their campuses.
“I don’t understand why we require residents to pay to park but don’t require non-residents to pay to park,” he said. “It seems to me that requiring metered parking around Concordia and around Dominican is both equitable and beneficial to the village. To me that’s blatantly unfair.”
He said that potential problems with metered parking could be mitigated with residential parking restrictions and cited the potential financial benefit of metered parking.
In response to a question from village President Cathy Adduci, Russell said survey responses indicated that students parking on the street were doing so because it was less expensive than using campus lots or because it was more convenient to their classes.
O’Connell contended that the practice of the universities to charge students for parking on campus is causing an increase in street parking near the campuses.
“They are charging for parking and they’re making money,” he said. “Now their problem becomes our problem. They should reduce the price to park in their garage or eliminate it.”
Adduci and Trustee Respicio Vazquez said the universities provide benefits to residents, with Adduci noting residents are not charged to park on campus for university events and Vazquez noting that Concordia officials are “very good” with sharing the running track and meeting spaces.
Police Chief Jim O’Shea opposed the parking lane shift on Central Avenue between Park and Lathrop avenues, citing safety reasons related to police vehicles traveling east on Central from the police station while responding to calls.
He said Central Avenue is a main path for police vehicles responding to calls east of the police station and expressed concern about a potential increase in accidents involving pedestrians and vehicles.
Trustee Patty Henek agreed, noting that the change would lead to more people crossing Central Avenue to reach the apartment and condominium buildings on the north side of the street.
In addition to areas around Concordia, Dominican and village hall, study recommendations were made in the area surrounding River Forest Town Center, the area surrounding the Metra Station and the Metra station lots.
Recommendations for the Metra station lots include eliminating the monthly permit wait list, selling permits to all residents who desire them and advertising that monthly permit holders are able to park in the daily fee spaces, if necessary, without penalty of paying twice.
The village board approved the overall package of recommendations by a 5-1 vote.
“I can’t support a proposal that inequitably charges residents and parking spots but doesn’t charge non-residents,” Cargie said in casting the negative vote.
Jeff Loster, village engineer, said that all associated ordinance modifications will be presented to the village board at a later date.