HINSDALE – A recent study of parking in Hinsdale found that people visiting the downtown can’t find a place to park, in turn creating a problem that could be costing local business owners money.
Lindsay Bayley, senior planner for the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, led the analysis of downtown Hinsdale and said there is a simple solution to the problem.
Instead of parking on nearby roadway, Bayley recommended that business owners and their employees park further away from their stores, freeing up enough spots for shoppers and out of towners visiting the area.
“It would be a pretty small change,” Bayley said.
She explained that as early as 10 a.m. on weekdays, between 90 and 100 percent of parking spots downtown are occupied, and drivers at times park illegally.
The study showed that between 15 to 30 percent of street parking is being used by employees because it's cheaper to feed the meter at the rate of a quarter an hour than it is to pay for a parking pass.
But clearing out parking in downtown is not the plan, according to Bayley.
The goal is to have parking near capacity, and she recommends that for every seven downtown spots, one is free for someone to park in.
“It’s still full, and you’re not scaring people away to the mall,” she said.
Free employee permit parking is offered on the west side of downtown, a five minute walk from the center of downtown, at Hinsdale Avenue and Vine Street, she said.
Additionally, Bayley suggested that adding a free employee parking area on the east side of the downtown could motivate business owners and their staff to make the walk.
But in a village where expansion of parking has been a point of discussion for some time, local officials feel it’s time to do more than just talk about change.
“If we don’t act, it will just be another outdated recommendation,” said Jan Anderson, executive director of the Hinsdale Chamber of Commerce, who echoed concerns raised by village board members during the July 7 meeting.
In order to gauge residents' point of view, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning gathered input via an online survey, receiving complaints about the traffic, lack of parking spots and confusion regarding the various color zones.
Other ideas to increase parking spots have also been suggested.
Anderson said one idea, which has come up in past discussions, has been to get rid of the metered parking and build a garage.
Bayley explained that while residents may want a parking garage, it would cost would not be a cost effective solution because street parking would still fill up first. She said as Hinsdale continues to grow, there may one day be need for a parking garage, but not yet.
Another suggestion is to install credit card ready parking meters and use a progressive parking fee, which costs more the longer a spot is occupied. This method would allow people who want to spend a few hours downtown the ability to do so, while employees would likely park elsewhere to avoid the higher costs, according to Bayley.
Anderson said before any changes to parking can be made, the Hinsdale Zoning and Public Safety committee would have to discuss it.
Zoning and Public Safety Committee Chairman Bob Saigh said he doesn’t know if parking will even be on Monday's meeting agenda.