Want a prime spot in Barrington's Metra lot? That'll be $1,200 a year
Similar to how sports teams have created premium seating with exclusive benefits for fans willing to pay extra, one suburb is offering commuters a chance to buy guaranteed parking in the best spaces at its Metra station.
Applications became available Tuesday for Barrington's new premium commuter parking permit that will cost $1,200 a year for a space. A quarterly permit for a first-come, first-serve space will be $200, or $800 a year, as of Oct. 1, and the daily fee will rise 50 cents to $3.50, also on Oct. 1.
About 90 premium spots are expected, but that will depend on demand, said Patty Dowd Schmitz, the village's director of communications, marketing and events. The premium spaces will be those closest to the downtown Barrington Metra station.
Nationally recognized transit expert Joseph Schwieterman, head of DePaul University's Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, says he hasn't seen such a program elsewhere in the area, but exclusive spots should be welcomed by commuters.
"I think it's great to see an effort to make the lives of transit users easier, more pleasant, while generating some revenue as well," said Schwieterman, president of the Chicago chapter of the Transportation Research Forum.
Barrington Village President Karen Darch said desire for the premium spaces, which become effective Oct. 1, will dictate the program's future.
"So, maybe people will like it or not like it," Darch said. "And that (parking) may or may not take off. But it certainly offers an option to somebody who currently may not be able to take the train because they can't count on getting a space."
Under village guidelines, the exclusive spaces must be occupied by 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, otherwise they'll become available to anyone. Schmitz said late-arriving premium permit holders will be allowed to park elsewhere in the lot.
Barrington residents will be first in the pecking order for the top spots. Second on the priority list will be residents from Barrington Hills, Deer Park, Lake Barrington, North Barrington, South Barrington and Tower Lakes -- all members of the Barrington Area Council of Governments -- followed by everyone else.
Metra spokesman Meg Thomas-Reile said the agency is unaware of any other towns that offer an annual VIP parking permit similar to Barrington's. She said some communities have pricing that varies for residents and nonresidents.
"The closest thing that we've seen is for daily parking in Downers Grove through the ParqEx app, where daily parkers can reserve a spot in advance for $10 versus the $3 daily fee without reservations," Thomas-Reile said.
Applications for the annual premium commuter parking permit -- available at village hall and barrington.il.gov/parking -- must be submitted with a $120 deposit by a June 28 deadline. A lottery will decide who receives the spaces in five zones near the train station.
Metra parking demand has been an issue in Barrington. Officials said some Barrington residents have complained they're unable to find daily parking spaces because they are occupied with vehicles from other towns.
Schmitz said giving top priority to residents for the premier parking spots will help address what village voters weighed in on last year in an advisory referendum. On whether residents should receive preference in the commuter lot, the tally was 3,682, or 77 percent, in favor and 1,148, or 23 percent, against.
Officials said the daily fee increase will help pay for creation of 67 new commuter spaces at the First Church of Christ, Scientist lot the village purchased for $625,000.
The extra revenue also will go toward train platform heat lamps, parking lot upkeep and the installation of a traffic signal to improve the north entrance.