Aurora looking to eliminate downtown parking meters

Meters are about to become a thing of the past in downtown Aurora as officials explore other ways to control parking.

Aldermen who have expressed interest in removing meters from downtown streets on Tuesday discussed a parking management system that could be implemented instead.

The system divides downtown into color-coded zones allowing free parking for 90 minutes or two, three, six or 10 hours. It would come with higher costs for monthly permits and higher fines for those caught in one spot longer than allowed as the city looks to account for the likely loss of revenue from meters.

“We want it to be as revenue-neutral as possible,” Development Director Bill Wiet said.

While several aldermen have expressed support for removing meters, those on the city council's finance committee raised questions about the future revenues and costs of the proposed system. The proposal has not yet been forwarded to the full council.

Under the plan, the parking management system would operate at about a $20,000 loss this year, Wiet said.

Among other things, the proposal calls for increasing the fine for a parking ticket between $5 and $60, depending on the number of tickets received, and raising the monthly permit rates between $1 and $10 depending on the type of permit.

Alderman Lynda Elmore said she would consider higher fines and permit rates if it would help prevent the city from losing money on parking.

“We obviously are not going to break even in 2013,” Elmore said. “I don't want to see us go deeper into the hole.”

Carie Anne Ergo, chief management officer, said Mayor Tom Weisner's office has three goals for revamping downtown parking.

First, she said, removing parking meters is meant as a business-friendly move.

“I think the public would really like to see the meters go away,” Alderman Abby Schuler said. “The consensus of the public is they're somewhat of a nuisance.”

If the plan is approved, the enforcement role of the meters will be replaced by a license plate recognition system to track how long each vehicle has been in a certain spot.

Ergo said the changes also are meant to create high turnover near businesses and to bring in enough money from fines and permits to avoid increasing the city's costs.

The finance committee will take another look at the parking management system at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22.

“This is a plan for the future,” said Alderman-at-Large Bob O'Connor, who leads the finance committee, “so we want to make sure all its components are good.”

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