The Parking Predicament: Oak Park’s parking management program uses permits, meters to promote efficient land use

The Parking Predicament: Oak Park’s parking management program uses permits, meters to promote efficient land use

By Chrissy Mancini Nichols

Oct 30, 2012

This post first appeared at

MPC Research Assistant Lena Ferguson contributed to this post.

Oak Park, Ill., just west of Chicago is easily transit accessible by two Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) trainlines, several CTA buses and the regional commuter rail line, Metra. Oak Park, well known for its charming neighborhoods and architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright, was fully developed by the 1930s, before American society became dependent on cars, therefore on-street parking is a limited resource. The Village has one of the most encompassing parking management programs in the Chicago region. 

Daytime Parking

In the daytime, parking is available in most areas, but many streets are subject to various time limits and restrictions. For example, these restrictions are in place near the CTA rail line to deter commuters from parking on the street. For areas marked as “permit parking only,” daytime on-street parking permits for residents and businesses cost $50 per year and $100 per year, respectively. Residents with permits can buy daytime visitor’s passes for $5 for 20 one-day passes.

Many of Oak Park’s streets also are metered, mostly in the downtown retail district. To more effectively manage downtown on-street and garage parking, in 2007 Oak Park conducted a study to examine the value of these assets. Based on the study’s findings, Oak Park made the on-street meters more expensive than hourly garage fees.  Metered on-street parking in Oak Park costs $1 per hour, and it is metered Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Parking in Oak Park’s three public parking garages is free for the first hour and increases incrementally thereafter with an hourly rate.  This change shifted many long-term parkers to choose the garages. Former parking manager and now interim Village Mayor Cara Pavlicek says the price changes “freed up parking meters for short-term customers willing to pay the higher rate for the convenience of the short-term stay.”

Oak Park also sells a pre-paid meter key, technology that saves parkers time and the hassle of fumbling for change at the meters. All parking revenues from meters and garages (but not citations, which instead go to the general fund) go into a fund exclusively dedicated to the upkeep of Oak Park’s parking resources. The Village has a process in place to adjust the current parking policy when it no longer suits the area’s needs, and Oak Park welcomes the suggestions of those who live and/or work in the area.

Vehicle Stickers and Overnight Parking

Since the 1930s the Village of Oak Park has mandated that all vehicles owned by Oak Park residents have some form of identification. Today, residents and businesses who lease or own vehicles parked in Oak Park overnight and on weekends must display a current vehicle sticker. These stickers are valid for one year and cost $50 for most cars. Trucks are subject to a higher fee (from $56 for Class B up to $171 for Class L), while motorcycles ($16), mopeds ($9), and electric vehicles ($0) have a lower or nonexistent fee. Senior citizens and the disabled are eligible for a price discount. This sticker policy urges residents to think about whether or not they may need an additional vehicle or a vehicle at all, as well as makes owning a fuel-efficient vehicle more attractive.

In addition to vehicle ownership fees for Oak Park residents, The Village also restricts when and where residents can park. For the most part, parking is prohibited on all streets from 2:30 a.m. to 6 a.m., a restriction that dates back to the 1920s. In some areas, however, residents can obtain permits to park overnight. These permits cost $105 quarterly.

Garage Parking

As an alternative to residential overnight permits and other on-street metered parking, permits are also available for Oak Park’s 87 parking garages and lots. These permits are purchased quarterly, priced by area, and are more expensive for non-residents.  For example, 24-hour residential permits cost $225 per quarter in the 10 highest-demand garages and $195 elsewhere.  Non-residents pay $300 per quarter in the high-demand garages and $225 elsewhere.  Hourly rates are also available for most of these garages and are priced in conjunction with the village’s parking meters.

Oak Park also promotes modes of transportation other than automobiles. The village has increased bike parking, car sharing, and walking by reserving some on-street parking spaces for bikes and car-sharing vehicles.

Solving the Parking Predicament series will highlight parking management theories, and ways in which cities across the country are using demand pricing, zoning requirements, and a little rethinking to better manage land dedicated to parking.  


State of the Smart: Maximizing Capacity with Intelligent Transportation Systems

State of the Smart: Maximizing Capacity with Intelligent Transportation Systems

Chicago transit gets open payment system

Chicago transit gets open payment system