Parking regulations to increase accessibility

By Renee Chacko

The City of Champaign introduced new parking regulations last week in hopes of making the core of the city more accessible and enjoyable for drivers during daytime and evening hours. The new regulations include extended enforced meter hours Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and four-hour visitor parking at two hour meters starting at 5 p.m. According to Stacey Rachel, parking services supervisor for the city, increasing activity in downtown Champaign has been one of the city council’s broad goals. Parking naturally became an issue as more patrons began visiting businesses in the area.

“Downtown Champaign is becoming more vibrant,” Rachel said. “We’re seeing a more active city center in the daytime as well as in the evening and we hope to offer people a variety of parking options to help spread out parking.”

The new changes will be more strictly enforced beginning on Monday, Rachel said. This came as a relief for one driver who was unaware of the change.

“I’m glad I am (aware) now,” said Sarah Dolinar, a University employee. “I usually don’t have a problem with the parking because I expect ahead of time the downtown area to be a popular destination spot for people.”

Police distributed courtesy reminders last week, but Rachel said more live citations will be handed out starting this week.

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    According to Rachel, the new meter hours will offer residents and visitors who don’t mind parking a little farther away a chance to pay less for parking on the fringe. This would hopefully open up more parking spots in the core of the downtown area for the more expensive 75 cent per hour parking meters.

    “Lots of people have to circle around Neil Street and Walnut Street a few times before they can find parking,” Rachel said. “Hopefully the new system will free up and spread out parking in the area so that won’t have to happen.”

    For students who frequent the downtown area more often in the evening, the circling routine sounds familiar. Vidisha Vachharajani, a Ph.D student, noticed a change after a recent visit to soma ultralounge, located on Neil Street in the downtown area.

    “We didn’t have to walk very far and in general it seems easier to get around,” Vachharajani said. “I didn’t feel like it was ever really hard to find a parking spot but I definitely have seen the night scene get busier over the past three years.”