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Almost a year has passed since the village council voted to simplify the parking rate structure in several municipal lots along Madison. The move, which included replacing more than 100 coin-operated parking meters with a new automated system, aimed to reduce maintenance and labor costs, boost revenue, and match prices with peak demand.

Now, 10 months after the new system took effect, Village Administrator Mike Sturino said the rate changes and automated machines have proven successful.

“We’re on track to surpass revenues exceeding $60,000 for the year,” Sturino said of Constitution Court, the lot with the highest volume of those under the new system.

Sturino pointed to the relative ease of using the new machines to account, in part, for the revenue increase.

“There was a bit of a learning curve in the beginning, but it’s going much more smoothly now,” he said. “We’ve gotten many compliments on the machines being easy to use.”

While the convenience has contributed to the increase in revenue, the efficiency of maintaining the machines has allowed the village to cut costs, according to Sturino. Because the new machines don’t have to be emptied and constantly repaired like the old meters, what used to be a two-person maintenance operation now only requires one person.

“The costs reduced are related to the ability of a public works person to now focus on other public works projects,” Sturino said. “We are able to redeploy our workforce more effectively.”

Terri McReady, a records clerk at the Forest Park Police Department, also attested to the success of the new system, though she admitted she was surprised at how smoothly the transition went.

“We were expecting any kind of excuse from people not wanting to pay,” McReady said of the concern that drivers would feign ignorance in order to avoid payment.

With few exceptions, McReady said problems with the new machines rarely extend beyond the occasional jammed dollar bill or a machine running out of receipt paper.

The new automated machines were installed by Total Parking Solutions, a Tampa-based company founded by co-owners Joe Smith and Tom Zawacki. Since the company’s inception about four years ago, Smith and Zawacki have installed more than 400 of the machines throughout Forest Park, Oak Park, Hinsdale and several Metra stations.

Smith regards one of the machines’ most efficient features to be their ability to accept credit cards. In Forest Park, he said, about 40 percent of payments are made with credit cards.

Despite the simplification of the parking process along Madison, McReady said there has been little change in terms of the number of parking citations issued. Customers seem to understand how the machines work, but violations have not subsided.

“We’re not writing less, that’s for sure,” she said. “For a fact, the issuance of tickets certainly hasn’t dropped. It’s about the same.”

Before the new parking rates and system were implemented along Madison, the village had already switched to an automated system in Chicago Transit Authority parking lots. By the middle of fiscal year 2007, the old “honor boxes” were replaced with automated machines charging a flat rate of $3 per day. The new machines also accept village issued prepaid card, which Sturino said has become very popular with commuters.

Since the switch, the village has seen more than a 21 percent increase in revenues over the old honor boxes and has sold about 500 municipal cards, said Sturino.

Though the machines along Madison are equipped to use the cards, Sturino said the village has not yet seen enough demand to set up the machines for their use.
Changes to parking
system yields new money for Forest Park

By KATIE PRZYCHODZEN

Contributing Reporter

Almost a year has passed since the village council voted to simplify the parking rate structure in several municipal lots along Madison. The move, which included replacing more than 100 coin-operated parking meters with a new automated system, aimed to reduce maintenance and labor costs, boost revenue, and match prices with peak demand.

Now, 10 months after the new system took effect, Village Administrator Mike Sturino said the rate changes and automated machines have proven successful.

“We’re on track to surpass revenues exceeding $60,000 for the year,” Sturino said of Constitution Court, the lot with the highest volume of those under the new system.

Sturino pointed to the relative ease of using the new machines to account, in part, for the revenue increase.

“There was a bit of a learning curve in the beginning, but it’s going much more smoothly now,” he said. “We’ve gotten many compliments on the machines being easy to use.”

While the convenience has contributed to the increase in revenue, the efficiency of maintaining the machines has allowed the village to cut costs, according to Sturino. Because the new machines don’t have to be emptied and constantly repaired like the old meters, what used to be a two-person maintenance operation now only requires one person.

“The costs reduced are related to the ability of a public works person to now focus on other public works projects,” Sturino said. “We are able to redeploy our workforce more effectively.”

Terri McReady, a records clerk at the Forest Park Police Department, also attested to the success of the new system, though she admitted she was surprised at how smoothly the transition went.

“We were expecting any kind of excuse from people not wanting to pay,” McReady said of the concern that drivers would feign ignorance in order to avoid payment.

With few exceptions, McReady said problems with the new machines rarely extend beyond the occasional jammed dollar bill or a machine running out of receipt paper.

The new automated machines were installed by Total Parking Solutions, a Tampa-based company founded by co-owners Joe Smith and Tom Zawacki. Since the company’s inception about four years ago, Smith and Zawacki have installed more than 400 of the machines throughout Forest Park, Oak Park, Hinsdale and several Metra stations.

Smith regards one of the machines’ most efficient features to be their ability to accept credit cards. In Forest Park, he said, about 40 percent of payments are made with credit cards.

Despite the simplification of the parking process along Madison, McReady said there has been little change in terms of the number of parking citations issued. Customers seem to understand how the machines work, but violations have not subsided.

“We’re not writing less, that’s for sure,” she said. “For a fact, the issuance of tickets certainly hasn’t dropped. It’s about the same.”

Before the new parking rates and system were implemented along Madison, the village had already switched to an automated system in Chicago Transit Authority parking lots. By the middle of fiscal year 2007, the old “honor boxes” were replaced with automated machines charging a flat rate of $3 per day. The new machines also accept village issued prepaid card, which Sturino said has become very popular with commuters.

Since the switch, the village has seen more than a 21 percent increase in revenues over the old honor boxes and has sold about 500 municipal cards, said Sturino.

Though the machines along Madison are equipped to use the cards, Sturino said the village has not yet seen enough demand to set up the machines for their use.