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Local News

Free parking would end if Joliet automates decks

A parking sing hangs on a light pole Monday, June 19, 2017, in downtown Joliet, Ill.
A parking sing hangs on a light pole Monday, June 19, 2017, in downtown Joliet, Ill.

The free parking downtown could be over if Joliet ever modernizes its parking decks.

Whether or when that happens is uncertain, but the city is working on long-term changes in downtown parking, including automated devices at the decks, interim City Attorney Chris Regis told a City Council committee last week.

The city has modernized parking at many locations downtown, replacing coin-only meters with coin-or-credit kiosks on a number of streets, and making mobile apps available for payments in commuter lots.

But traditionalists can still find old-school parking in the two decks on Ottawa and Scott streets.

One advantage for consumers at the decks, besides paying only 50 cents an hour for parking, is that there is no one to collect money at the cashier booths after a certain point in the evening.

“They come out and no one’s there, so they just park for free,” Councilwoman Jan Quillman noted at the City Council Land Use and Legislative Committee meeting on Thursday. “People come in the morning, and they go on the train. Then, they come home late, and they parked for free all day.”

The topic came up as the committee reviewed language changes in city ordinances to reflect the changes to the streetside parking meter system.

“If automated, payment would be 24 hours,” Regis said after Quillman’s comments about the parking decks.

Regis said city staff members are looking into automation or even privatization of the parking decks as part of a long-term review of the system. Until that happens, 24-hour payment at the decks is not planned.

“Just to be clear,” he said, “there’s no discussion about raising the rates right now. There is discussion about automating the decks. We’re not going to have people sitting there all night.”

City staff members in 2015 were close to presenting a plan to the City Council for privatization and were negotiating a transition plan with the union representing parking deck workers.

One challenge the city faces is collecting enough money to maintain and upgrade the parking decks.

“We’re currently reviewing present revenues,” Regis said, “and there seems to be less than is required to maintain what we have.”

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