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City officials have added a heap of parking-rate fees and hikes over the past year, in part to close a budget gap.

But members of the City’s Transportation & Parking Committee, held off on one at their Oct. 23 meeting — recommending an end to free parking at meters for holders of certain placards for disabled parking.

Under a change in State law in 2017, legislators eliminated automatic free parking for people with disabilities, officials noted.

The State currently issues four different types of placards for people with disabilities, Luke Stowe, the City’s Interim Administrative Services Director and Mike Rivera, the City’s Interim Parking Division Manager, said in a memo.

Of the four, only the yellow/silver cards which are issued to people with permanent disabilities exempt drivers of those vehicles from paying at metered spaces, officials said.

The other three – which include placards that are non-meter exempt, permanent (blue in color), temporary (red), and organizational (green) – do not exempt owners of those vehicles from paying at metered spaces, under the change in the law.

Staff surveyed communities similar to Evanston and found  Oak Park, Waukegan and Springfield all charge for disabled meter parking unless the vehicle has a yellow and silver placard, officials said.

Mr. Rivera sought direction from the Committee on how to proceed on the issue so officials could inform holders of the various cards what rules were in effect.

Those to be informed include longtime residents of the City who are seniors, he said. Members of that group  have been used to having the free disabled spaces and might be unaware of the change in the law, he said.

In discussion, Committee member Ben Kaplan indicated he was opposed to charging.

“I think this comes off as kind of cold thing to do,” he said. “My initial reaction was we’re going to add fees for people with disabilities?

“This is a poor time to do this,” he said. “The City has already been criticized for taxing people, making living expenses out of reach for people.”

But another member, Alejandro Anon, said while he saw the need for subsidies in areas such as public transportation for residents and health services, his feeling was “everybody should pay for parking, whether disabled or not.”

Ald. Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she would like to learn more about the definitions of the different categories, as well as how the requests are processed.

She advocated a cautious approach, citing the changes Council members made last year, hiking parking and fines, as “really drastic” in some people’s minds. She  said there was also acknowledgment among some Council members that the changes were “significant,” adding to the sensitivity around the disabled parking changes.

Mr. Rivera notes that some of the fine increases were in fees that were stagnant for some time and which officials held off changing during the recession.

On the disabled parking change, officials were not looking on it as a revenue generator, he said, but looking to have a uniform policy in place.

The Committee plans to take up the issue at a followup meeting.

“It’s an issue we have to decide one way or the other,” Ald. Wynne said.

Bob Seidenberg

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.