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With a wave of its bureaucratic wand, City Council has decreed that Evanston parking meters and the three downtown parking garages will be free on weekends and evenings after 5 p.m. starting Nov. 24 and running through Jan. 5.

The annual parking “pass” works differently this year, however. Under this year’s program, the City will provide “validation codes for the ParkEvanston app or validated tickets…to merchants who would then give them to customers who make a purchase in their store,” according to the City memo describing the program. “This would replace the free holiday parking that was [formerly] offered on weekdays after 5 p.m. and all day on Saturdays.”

The rationale is simple. “The drawback of the previous program was that it could not differentiate between shoppers and those using the parking garages for other uses, and thus it gave everyone free use of the garage.”

This is the first year, the memo notes, “that parking meters (if paid for through the app) will…be a part of the program.”