Commuters parking their cars along the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe railroad tracks in Brookfield may soon be paying twice as much for the privilege. Village trustees on Nov. 28 appeared to be leaning toward raising the price for commuter parking near the Hollywood, Prairie Avenue and Congress Park stops on the Metra line to $40 per month.
Meanwhile, Village Manager Riccardo Ginex is exploring parking fees at the commuter parking lot behind village hall, 8820 Brookfield Ave. While no fee increases have yet been proposed for those spots, it's likely that the cost to park there in the future will mirror increases for spots along the railroad tracks.
Trustees may act on a proposed ordinance raising commuter parking rates as early as the Dec. 12 meeting of the village board.
Currently, commuters pay $20 per month or $45 quarterly for one of the 190 spaces Brookfield provides along the BNSF tracks. That amounts to approximately $1 per day on a monthly basis or 75 cents per day if someone buys a quarterly permit.
According to information provided by Ginex, Brookfield's 2005-06 budget shows that the village expects to receive $38,000 from parking permits for spaces along the tracks and another $12,000 from the cash drop box for parking spaces behind village hall. During the prior two years, the village averaged $48,419 in commuter parking fee payments.
That revenue, however, is not enough to cover the costs of maintaining the spaces, the Prairie Avenue station and the Congress Park commuter station entrances. According to the village's 2001 contract with the BNSF, Brookfield must offer at least 190 parking spaces for continuous all-day commuter parking of at least 14 hours.
Any revenue from the lease of those parking spaces is to be used for maintenance, lighting, heating, landscaping, water and other utility service and snow removal from the station building and surrounding area.
According to the village's financial audit from the past two years, Brookfield spent roughly $120,000 in 2003-04 and $69,900 in 2004-05 on commuter rail station maintenance and capital improvements.
"We're not recovering our basic expenses," Ginex said.
Brookfield's contract with the BNSF states that Brookfield can charge up to $2.50 per day (or $50 per month) per parking space. Any increase in the fee has to gain the approval of the BNSF. If the BNSF does not respond to a proposed fee increase from the village within 60 days, the increase can be implemented automatically.
Trustee Michael Towner suggested that the monthly rate for commuter parking along the BNSF tracks be increased to $40, and Ginex suggested that the discount for quarterly parking be eliminated.
"Our thinking is that we have to maintain the lots no matter where they are in the municipal boundaries," Ginex said, "so why not charge one fee?"
Trustees discussed the possibility of charging more for non-residents who buy Brookfield spaces, noting that according to a one-day survey of vehicles parked along the Brookfield tracks in August, nearly half sported out-of-town vehicle stickers.
Trustees were not as united on that score. Trustee C.P. Hall said he felt charging out-of-towners more was arbitrary. When the City of Chicago charges suburbs more for water than its own residents, suburban residents get angry, he said, "but when we're in a position to stick it to somebody we think it's a grand idea. I think we keep it the same rate for everybody."
Ginex wasn't certain the village could charge a different fee for non-residents since Brookfield accepted federal funds to repave Brookfield Avenue and Burlington Boulevard, where the commuter spaces are located.
But Trustee Linda Stevanovich said she thought the proposed hike in permit fees to $40 was simply too steep.
"I think the increase is too much," Stevanovich said. "We should be encouraging people to take mass transit, and Metra has raised their rates already. I'll say [the hike should be] $30 and I'm uncomfortable with that. I'm so grateful those people are on the train and not on the road with me."
Village President Michael Garvey responded that the intent of increase wasn't to "gouge" commuters.
"Previous boards ignored this problem," Garvey said. "How do we pay for our increased costs to maintain these spaces?"