The village’s pilot program meant to encourage Madison Street workers to park on Adams and Jackson streets is off to a sluggish start.
On Aug. 3 the village mailed a letter to 86 businesses and organizations along the business corridor explaining the program and inviting applicants to sign up for the free permit that allows employees to park along the south side of Adams Street and both sides of Jackson Avenue without fear of being ticketed.
But as of midday Friday only 12 applications were received by the village, according to the police department’s Community Relations Coordinator LaShan Riggins, who is administering the program.
“It’s a start,” Village Administrator Michael Sturino said.
Those who work on Madison Street can apply for the free parking sticker. The designated parking areas will be a ticket-free zone for participants between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m., Monday through Friday, and from 6 a.m. and 3 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Adams and Jackson streets are immediately south of Madison Street, where a parking study conducted in 2006 revealed a shortage of 158 spaces.
The purpose of the plan is to free up parking spaces on Madison Street and in village parking lots for the customers of the many businesses that line Madison. The idea was first proposed by Charles Hoehne, a member of the ad hoc parking improvement committee made up of residents and business owners. Mayor Anthony Calderone assembled the group in the spring to come up with ideas to improve parking in Forest Park.
The full committee recommended that the village try the new program. The village estimates that by having Madison Street employees park on residential streets, some 100 to 120 parking spaces will be freed.
An informal check of various Madison Street businesses last week indicated that many employees were still unaware of the program. But that should change as business owners are being asked to encourage employees to sign up for the stickers.
“It will be a good program that will have some impact,” caffe De Luca owner Art Sundry said.
Sundry is also the president of the Forest Park Main Street Redevelopment Association and a member of the parking improvement committee. On Friday, Sundry said he will be sending out an e-mail to members of Main Street, and the Chamber of Commerce will do the same.
“Twelve is a start and I think if we have both our organizations push it we can easily take that number to the 70, 80, or 90 range,” Sundry said.
Sundry noted that the program is voluntary and that business owners can encourage their employees to participate, but cannot force them to park on Adams or Jackson.
“I’m hoping for one-third compliance, and I don’t mean for me, but I mean street wide,” Sundry said. “But if one-third of the employees or owners do it, that still will be a significant amount of spaces.”
Cecilia Hardacker, a co-owner of Two Fish on Madison Street, has been parking along the residential streets with business owners Jayne Ertel and Heidi Vance of Team Blonde. Hardacker said she fully supports the program.
“I think this idea is genius,” Hardacker said. “It’s so simple. You just have to walk a couple blocks.”
Hardacker said that Two Fish is planning to apply for five permits. Two Fish has eight employees, two of whom walk to work and another rides her bike, Hardacker said.
But the owners of some businesses, especially those open late at night, have reservations about the program. They do not want their employees, particularly young women, to walk two or three blocks to their cars late at night.
“I wouldn’t think that too many of my employees would be (interested),” Doc Ryan’s owner Jim Shaw said, noting that he has many female employees getting off work at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m.
Connie Brown of the Brown Cow ice cream parlor is concerned that teenage girls who work at the shop walking to their cars late at night may not be safe. Eighteen of Brown Cow’s 22 employees are teenagers, Brown said.
The village council recently voted to increase the time limit for free on-street parking along Madison Street from two hours to three hours. The new time limit will be enforced with the help of six new part-time parking enforcement officers the village recently hired.
Charles Hoehne, who helped create the program with the ad hoc committee, is waiting to see how many employees ultimately sign up.
“This is a pilot program,” Hoehne said. “We’ll have to see how it goes.”