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Oak Park's Y2, Y3, Y4 overnight zones

Last night I spent about an hour each with two of my fellow Transportation Commissioners inside Oak Park's overnight parking permit zones as part of a study. In addition to the typical report done by village staff, the commission has divided the Y2, Y3, and Y4 overnight zones into "before school starts" and "after school starts" time blocks. As well as "weekday evening" and "weekend" splits so we get a feel for some of the different conditions that exist. Each of the 12 different zones/times has 2 commissioners assigned to walk the zone and report back as part of the attempt to fix a few of the parking problems in these heavily-used areas.

For those of you unfamiliar, the Village of Oak Park has long had an overnight parking ban where vehicles may not park on the street between 2:30am and 6am. There are, of course, ways around it with permits and passes instituted over the years. Much of the problem with capacity is related to Oak Park's highest density housing districts where we have multi-family corridors. This puts the bulk of the restricted-access system in place around apartment and condo buildings in a very narrow section of the village. It's not uncommon in these parking zones to see 4-5 street signs on one signpost. Competing with the basic overnight parking zone are emergency snow ban signs, weekly street maintenance signs, daytime parking restrictions, loading zones, staff parking for schools, and more.

As we walked/biked the zones, there was one intersection (Pleasant and Maple) where depending on which corner you're standing on it may be 1 hour parking, 2 hour parking, or 4 hour parking. Which makes absolutely no sense that you cross the street and get a completely different result for whether you may or may not park and how long. If I had my way, we'd pull out all the restrictions and start over with easy-to-follow signs. But that would quickly become cost-prohibitive to re-install hundreds of parking signs.

It's easy to blame the village as purposefully making the situation confusing in an effort to extract fines and fees from Oak Park parkers. But, believe it or not, that's not the case. The real blame is squarely with ourselves over the years as residents and businesses. We've taken a hodgepodge approach to putting restrictions in place as-needed for a variety of reasons. From trying to keep commuters out of the neighborhood while they ride the L, to the desire for commercial customer turnover, and even just selfishly wanting to be able to park in front of one's own house.

We heard from quite a few residents at our Monday monthly meeting at Village Hall. Nearly 5,000 public notices were mailed to get feedback and we heard everything from making streets one-way to eliminating parking on one side of the street to avoid accidents. If there's no parking on Tuesday from 8am to 10am for street cleaning, residents want their street actually swept. But we need to hear more and we need more involvement. And, ultimately, the Transportation Commission can make all the recommendations we want about transparency, ease-of-use, and fairness, but they're just that...recommendations. Your elected Trustees are the ones who make official policy and the staff at village hall will be the ones putting those decisions into place. Having your voice heard is no guarantee that you'll see the issue go your way, but it certainly helps more than staying quiet.

So, if you park on the street in Y2, Y3, Y4, we want to hear from you. Come to our September commission meeting, e-mail the Board, tell your neighbors about what's going on. How would you change the parking situation inside these zones? We're doing our best, but what we're observing may not be the whole story!

If you'd like to view the commission's Work Plan for 2015 or the agenda for upcoming meetings, click the link: http://www.oak-park.us/your-government/citizen-commissions/transportation-commission We meet at 7pm on the fourth Monday of every month, usually at Village Hall.

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