Five parking terminal pay stations will soon replace “smart” parking meters on Sherman Avenue between Clark and Church streets, described by City staff as “one of the busiest and highest volume blocks for parking sessions in the City of Evanston.” In the first four months of 2017, 59 meters processed more than 65,000 transactions.

Gross revenue from those transactions topped $51,000. Apparently, the wear and tear is delivering a beating to the relatively new meters, and staff recommended replacing them. “This is evidently because the meters that I dearly love just aren’t working properly,” said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, who has long opposed pay stations that require parkers to return to their car after paying to leave receipts on car dashboards.

The new pay stations eliminate that need, said Parking Division Manager Rick Voss. The stations allow a “pay by space [cell phone] application. You don’t have to walk to the meter if you have that app.” The stations will be pay-by-space, allowing users to enter their space number at the pay station if they are not using the cell phone app.

The single-space parking meter heads frequently process credit card transactions. “When the meters are used, every time the credit card is run,” a communication is wirelessly initiated, said Erika Storlie, the City’s Director of Administrative Services. The result: Batteries inside the meters burn out and fail even though they are solar-powered. The meters have a proprietary battery, expensive and time-consuming to replace.

The City received 2,430 requests for service on broken or non-functioning meters between April 2016 and April 2017, an average of about 46 per week. Evanston spent $7,500 for the repair of 40 meters that could not be serviced by staff. Meters originally cost about $500 each.

The contract also calls for a single source purchase from Total Parking Solutions (TPS) in Downer’s Grove.  Mr. Voss told the RoundTable that TPS is the local vendor for Cale Webb, and the City decided to use Cale Webb products in order to maintain uniformity across all City parking pay stations.

The City plans to encourage more use of cell-phone apps in parking transactions. “As parking technology has evolved, there has been a huge adoption of the mobile parking app, where users can pay for their parking via their cell phone,” wrote staff in their memo. “To encourage greater use of the app staff is currently working with our vendor to offer the ‘wallet’ feature, which allows users to pre-load a set dollar amount to use toward parking sessions. We will be offering incentives for this such as offering $1 extra for each $20 that is pre-loaded…”

The recommendation came from City staff alone, and not the City’s Parking and Transportation Committee. That committee’s website shows it has not met since November, 2016, generally because of the lack of a quorum, Mr. Voss told the RoundTable the committee simply has not been able to meet because members have not been willing to show up.

The Committee’s meeting scheduled for May 24, the Wednesday after Council’s vote, was once again canceled. This time, according to the City’s website, the committee did not meet because of “a lack of agenda items.”