It’s official: Bye bye meters in downtown Aurora

Courtesy of the Beacon-News: AURORA — The meters are officially on their way out, and free parking is coming to downtown Aurora.

The Aurora City Council voted 9-0 Tuesday night to approve a new parking plan that will remove meters from the whole of downtown Aurora.Instead, the meters will be replaced with a color-coded system that will limit premium street parking to 90 minutes and include parking lots throughout downtown with time limits of between two and 10 hours.

“Until now there’s been no free parking in the downtown,” said Rick Guzman, assistant chief of staff for Aurora. “Now, if you basically follow the signs, it’s free parking throughout the downtown, including all day if you’re on the peripheral lots, where there’s nine and ten hour spots.”

Several residents and downtown business owners spoke in favor of the new plan, which eliminates the need for dimes and nickels.

“City staff did this in a really inclusive way, very collaboratively,” said Jeff Noblitt, spokesman for Waubonsee Community College and chair of Aurora Downtown. “Aurora Downtown strongly supports this.”A few downtown business owners did request longer time zones for street parking in front of their professional offices.

“Two hour parking for us is very important,” said Dr. Kishore Belani, a dentist. “Patients have to get up from the chair and move their car. It really is very inconvenient.”

But even those downtown professionals lauded the overall plan.

Further, staff said the downtown parking plan was designed for be constantly monitored and evaluated so that changes could be made when necessary to accommodate businesses and other downtown traffic.

The new color-coded parking zones will range from 90-min. Platinum parking on streets to 2-hour Gold spaces, 3-hour off-street and 2-hour on street silver spaces, 6-hour off-street and 2-hour on-street Bronze spaces, and 10-hour off-street and 3-hour on-street mercury spaces.

On Tuesday, the city also approved the purchase of a new license plate-scanning system that would allow traffic enforcement officers to monitor the spaces and issue tickets to those exceeding time limits.

The purchase of the new license plate recognition system, for about $133,000, was approved 8-1, with Alderman Rick Lawrence, Ward 4, casting the lone dissenting vote.

Lawrence called the removal of the meters a “step in the right direction,” but argued against enforcing the time limits.

“I just think it’s kind of a Big Brother type thing here,” Lawrence said.

Alderman Bob O’Connor countered that enforcing the time limits were simply a way to keep convenient spots open to those visiting businesses.

“Nobody likes to get a ticket,” O’Connor said. “But once it’s all rolled out, people will be very appreciative of the ability to find a spot.”

Time limits would be enforced on the streets Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Off-street parking time limits would only be enforced from Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Also under the new parking plan, repeat offenders of time limits would see the costs of those tickets increase significantly. Tickets for first-time offenders would increase from just a warning to $5, but the most egregious offenders — those with 20 or more tickets accrued — would pay $100 per offense.

Those are in downtown Aurora often could purchase a pass to park in lots all day. For $35 a month, a driver could purchase a pass allowing them to park all day in any Gold lot, for instance.

Parking in decks would continue to be free for the first hour, but otherwise would cost $1 dollar an hour, with a maximum of $5 a day.

Rollout of the new downtown parking program should be completed sometime this spring, city staff said.