Joliet takes closer look at free street parking downtown

City Hall not talking, but City Council should hear more Monday

A person pays for parking at a parking kiosk along West Clinton Street in Downtown Joliet on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023.

Joliet appears to be moving toward free street parking downtown, although city officials wouldn’t talk about their intentions Friday.

The City Council on Tuesday will vote whether to pay its parking consultant an extra $10,000 to “provide specific coordination and assistance with tasks that will include the removal of on-street parking meters, implementation of new parking time limits, parking enforcement and parking garage technology upgrades.”

The wording is in a staff memo to the council that suggests City Hall is ready to eliminate paid parking – at least on downtown streets – which is something that has been discussed for years and was recommended last year by the city’s parking consultant.

City Manager Beth Beatty and Mayor Terry D’Arcy did not return phone calls seeking clarification of the city’s plans. Neither did other city officials who have oversight of the city parking system.

Council member Larry Hug, who leads the Public Service Committee that will review the parking proposal Monday, said he only knows what’s in the staff memo.

Councilman Larry Hug voices his frustration at tabling a vote on liquor licenses on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, at Joliet City Hall in Joliet, Ill. The Joliet City Council discussed an amendment to allow for liquor consumption and video gambling at gas stations.

Hug said he has not been provided any information about plans for changes to downtown parking, and the staff memo does not specify whether there is a plan to eliminate paid parking.

“It doesn’t say they want to do it,” he said.

Hug also questioned how the city would regulate street parking without meters.

“If they’re not going to meter on a parking meter, what’s going to stop people from parking there all day?” he said.

One of the main justifications for parking meters is that they prevented downtown employees from parking their cars on the streets all day and using spaces that otherwise would be available to customers and visitors to the area.

Other cities that do not have paid parking, however, set time limits for parking on the street.

An old style parking meter sits along West Jefferson Street in Downtown Joliet on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023.

Parking consultant WGI recommended eliminating paid street parking in October when presenting the council with conclusions from its study of downtown parking operations.

The study concluded that Joliet has a surplus of parking spaces downtown and paid parking can inhibit economic recovery for the business district.

“When parking demand decreases in an urban core/downtown, the need for parking fees must be revisited,” according to the study.

The study also found that many businesses and property owners in the downtown area favor free on-street parking.

“There was a general perception that the fees charged for parking downtown hinder the economic resiliency of the downtown area,” according to the study.

Joliet has 590 on-street parking spaces, according to the study.

Parking spaces total 2,872, which includes two parking decks and eight parking lots.