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Community Invited to Discuss Evanston Parking Plans

January 12, 2006

A meeting for the campus community to discuss alternatives for additional parking on Northwestern’s Evanston campus will be held on Jan. 23, University officials announced. The meeting will be held in the Northwestern room of the Norris University Center at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 23.

For the past year, a parking planning advisory committee has examined current parking usage on the Evanston campus and reviewed options for increasing the number of parking spaces, said Eugene S. Sunshine, senior vice president for business and finance, who chaired the advisory committee.  The committee includes faculty, staff, undergraduate students and graduate students.

Although parking supply is adequate for much of the time, lots in the center of campus reach capacity during peak periods, generally mid-day on weekdays, Sunshine said. That capacity crunch is likely to be exacerbated when construction of the new Proteomics and Nanobiotechnology building begins late this year or early in 2007, he noted. (See related story on the new building.)

“We know that there is always a need for safe, available parking during peak hours,” Sunshine said  “What we want to do at the meeting is get input from the community about some of the alternatives we’re considering and then in the coming months make some decisions about the best way to proceed.”

The construction of the Proteomics building will result in the loss of approximately 70 parking spaces, Sunshine said.

Northwestern currently has more than 3,300 parking spaces on the main Evanston campus. There are an additional 330 in two parking lots at Engelhart Hall at Foster Avenue and Maple Street. An additional 720 spaces are available for University use in lots at Ryan Field (other spaces at Ryan Field are leased to Evanston Northwestern Healthcare). A free shuttle bus operates between the Ryan Field lots and the main campus on weekdays. The Engelhart lots and the Ryan Field lots are rarely filled, even during peak periods.

A new parking lot that will add approximately 200 spaces is under construction just east of the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion/Combe Tennis Center. The lot, which will be open to students, faculty and staff, will provide a total of 261 spaces, including 50 existing spaces that will be reconfigured as part of the construction. Completion of the lot is expected this spring.

Sunshine said the parking advisory committee considered 10 alternatives for additional parking, ranging from designating additional spaces at Ryan Field, to building an underground garage where the Allen Center lot is now located to building parking garages either on the site of the existing Garrett/Lunt lot or the Engelhart lot. A summary of each of the alternatives will be presented at the community meeting Jan. 23.

Regardless of which option ultimately is adopted, parking costs are likely to increase, Sunshine warned. It costs an average of $4,000 per space to build surface parking lots and $20,000 per space for above-grade garages and $30,000 to $40,000 for below-grade garages, said Ron Nayler, associate vice president for facilities management.  The costs of building and maintaining parking are funded by parking permit fees.

In addition, the City of Evanston has increased sharply the parking tax that is part of the total cost of each parking permit. The city tax has risen by more than 20 percent each of the last two years and now accounts for $144 of the $426 total cost of an annual permit.

“There’s no getting around the fact that parking is expensive to build and to maintain, but most people want to have parking that is convenient to their destination,” Sunshine said. “As a result, you’re always trying to balance having an adequate supply during peak periods and not overbuilding so that you’re maintaining acres of underused parking lots on land that could be used for other purposes.”