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Evanston City Council approved new, “smart” parking meters for downtown metered spaces during Monday’s meeting. The new meters feature technological innovations that allow them to issue tickets automatically as soon as meters expire rather than requiring a parking enforcement officer to catch tardy parkers in the act.

Evanston’s newly appointed parking technology director, Audrey Filch, introduced the innovative meters, calling them “revolutionary” and “exciting.” “Each meter has a small camera, and technological advances allow those cameras to recognize when a car pulls into a space, how long the car is there, and when payment is deposited,” she said. The cameras can read license plates “with ease,” she added, making ticket writing particularly easy.

“The possibilities are really limitless,” said Ms. Filch. Cars with outstanding tickets can accumulate additional fines. Cars that stay in a parking spot for more than two hours, the limit in most downtown spaces, will receive not just the overstay fine, but also the stiffer, $30 fine for lingering downtown for longer than two hours.

“We expect a huge increase in parking- fine revenue,” Ms. Filch said. “Tickets will be issued every 30 minutes until a vehicle has moved, and those fines can really add up.”

The primary challenge comes in getting the ticket, when issued, from the meter to the vehicle. Illinois law requires parking tickets to actually, physically, affix to an offending vehicle. For the time being, the white jeeps will pluck tickets from meters and place them on cars. “But there are exciting advances coming in ticket-delivery technology as well,” said Ms. Filch.

A pilot project will test some delivery technologies in the main branch library parking lot, according to the staff memo. Tethered mylar dirigibles will float from meter to vehicle and, with the help of an innovative adhesive, stick tickets to the windshield of offending vehicles.

The dirigibles come complete with heaters that can melt enough snow off a windshield to ensure a secure ticket placement.

“This is really amazing stuff,” said Ms. Filch. “We are not sure if this process will actually deliver the results expected, and the adhesive has been known to cause some minor problems in other municipalities, but we have high hopes,” she added.

Another process involves tiny remote- controlled helicopters, but it was deemed too expensive at this time. “I expect prices to come down soon, and perhaps at that point we can explore the even greater flexibility such delivery systems offer,” said Ms. Filch.

Automatic ticket delivery will free ticket issuers to focus on other areas of the City and not just downtown.

“When I say we expect a significant increase in parking fines, I mean really significant,” said Ms. Filch. Most white jeeps that now circulate downtown will be let loose in surrounding neighborhoods to look for expired tags and street-cleaning, snow-emergency and two-hour-parking violators.

“Violators are out there, everywhere, every day. Now we can deploy ticket-issuing resources more efficiently, casting as wide and thorough a net as possible,” she said.

No jobs will be cut as a result of the new program, according to the staff memo. Rather, resources will be redeployed. The library parking lot was selected for the pilot project with redeployment in mind, as white jeeps are often spotted there, waiting for meters to expire while ticket issuers relax. “No more,” said Ms. Filch. “We will not need any resources in that parking lot, increasing efficiency even more.”

It’s also about punishing wrongdoers. If you over-park, you will pay. We expect a huge increase in parking- fine revenue. — Audrey Filch

The meters come at a stiff initial price, but Council expects them to pay for themselves in 20 to 25 years. “It is not just about revenue, after all,” said Ms. Filch.

“It’s also about punishing wrongdoers. If you over-park, you will pay.” She also said that the true revenue potential was difficult to predict, and chances are that revenue possibilities were understatesd “After all, street cleaning is about to start again, and no one in the City really knows when it occurs on what street. We will be papering those streets!”

The first meters will be installed on April 1. Yes, April 1, 2012.