Oak Park's review of parking is much needed

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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Using the guiding principles of sustainability, public safety and customer service, the Oak Park Village Board and the Transportation Commission recently committed to a much needed comprehensive review of parking. The commission has been charged with developing a plan that is both holistic and equitable while also utilizing best practices in technology. Community engagement is key in order to thoughtfully develop a system that is fair to everyone. It should never be forgotten that the streets of Oak Park are owned by the community as a whole.

With these thoughts and goals in mind, it's important for the Transportation Commission to set priorities going into this process so they can help frame the discussion that will need to take place. But priorities need to be grounded in reality and based on hard facts that currently define our village parking system. We are constrained by both physical space for cars as well as the limited ability of Oak Park residents to pay additional parking-related fees and taxes.

In order to set these priorities and develop best practices needed to ensure success, it's important to review the full financial effect parking has on our community. Frankly speaking, parking is big business in Oak Park, and changes to our parking system need to be monitored closely to determine how they might affect our greater financial picture.

With that in mind, I've taken the liberty of looking at the 2017 budget in depth and was able to reconstruct an accurate picture of the overall parking revenue in Oak Park. Due to differences in governmental accounting, not all parking revenue shows up in one location in the budget. However, by reorganizing the data, I was able to present a comprehensive picture that takes into account all sources of revenue: (top chart)

In addition, a look at the numbers wouldn't be complete without reviewing the debt currently existing on our Village garages: (bottom chart)

Total interest payable on this debt is currently projected at an additional $9,045,000, making the combined principal and interest $37,402,665. However, it's important to note that some of this debt is callable before maturity and/or may be refinanced at some point in the future.

The Transportation Commission is well aware that parking is the number one complaint in Oak Park of both residents and visitors. Certainly a lot hangs in the balance based on the comprehensive review they've undertaken. However, we now have an extraordinary opportunity to improve a situation that can impact our village in a positive way for decades. I'm optimistic that the commission and the village board will take into account all of these elements and craft a holistic and thoughtful plan to address our parking problems.  

James Taglia

Candidate for village trustee

Reader Comments

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Jim Coughlin  

Posted: February 19th, 2017 9:38 PM

Terry, I was inquiring about revenues vs. expenditures. Operating costs for the Village's garages and lots must be a line item somewhere in the budget.Your question about public works services like street maintenance, leaf collection, snow plowing, salting, etc., are included in the Village's annual budget. The department director provides a annual report that not only details expenses for the current year but projects costs for the next budget year. Homeowners in many neighborhoods are limited in the number of times they can park overnight "on the public pavement in front of their house" and the trustees will soon be considering how much to charge per additional request. There's no reason why you cannot park on those streets. Some areas are restricted but the majority are free to use. I suspect the permit and garage fees are considered as revenue and may be applied to cover operating costs. Does it help offset all of the related expenditures? I don't know but thought the committee report should have included that information.You may recall the City of Chicago sold their parking meters and garages to a private company for more than a billion dollars. Analysts have since concluded it was a bad deal for the city.

Terry Stanton  

Posted: February 19th, 2017 8:07 AM

Jim C. Why should garages "break even" Should street maintenance or valet leaf collection for house owners break even? We have lots of garages because of the overnight ban. I pay a lot to use one because I have to. Meantime many house owners enjoy permitting and parking restrictions that basically give them ownership of the public pavement in front of their house. I'm subsidizing that because I am helping to pay for that space through taxes and fees but can't use it.

Mike Poirier  

Posted: February 18th, 2017 1:07 PM

James, Since you are a candidate for village trustee, what is your position on this subject ? What conclusions do you draw from the data you shared ? What would you propose the village should do differently in the future ? I would be interested in hearing from other candidates on this subject as well. Thanks.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: February 14th, 2017 9:17 PM

Missing from this published report are operating and personnel costs. Are any of the Village's five garages currently breaking even or do expenditures require a subsidy. If any funds are being diverted to cover expenses; it is possible to detail the existing Village accounts that are helping to make up the difference? The Transportation Commission has produced an invaluable review and should be commended for their efforts.Knowing how important revenue collection is to affording structural maintenance and emergency repairs, it seems oversight is a vital obligation for staff.

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: February 14th, 2017 7:38 PM

What deal did the mayor and the village trustees strike with the builders of the Vantage building? Looking at the article's garage debt chart, it lists Oak Park as being on the hook for $10,395,000 for the Vantage garage! Lest we forget, there was a fully functioning garage on the site that was unnecessarily demolished for this project. According to people who parked in the garage daily, the maintenance of the garage ceased @ 2014 to the point that lightbulbs were not even replaced. It seems to be the same strategy that the village has employed with the joint community/high school garage. After more than a year and a half, the village finally repaired the elevator in the garage just last month. The village still has yet to address the deferred maintenance of the garage that, according to the 2016 school commissioned-Larson Engineering report, is estimated at $271,000. The high school itself is responsible for the daily upkeep and landscaping of the garage, something that has seemingly also been neglected.

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