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Zipcar sets sights on downtown Highland Park

HighlPark  was approached Zipcar operate city Council members expressed willingness allow Zipcar use two parking spaces one Central TraStatiparking

Highland Park was approached Zipcar to operate in the city, and Council members expressed a willingness to allow Zipcar to use two parking spaces in one of the Central Train Station parking lots. | Sun-Times files

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Updated: December 6, 2013 5:28AM

As housing options continue to pop up near downtown train stations, an ever-growing number of suburbanites can catch a train or hoof it to most of their destinations.

But even they, on occasion, need a set of wheels — a need that car-sharing businesses have been filling for nearly a decade in the City of Chicago and the inner suburbs of Evanston and Oak Park.

Now a car-sharing venture may be heading north to Highland Park.

The city was recently approached by both Zipcar and I-Go, though I-Go has since withdrawn its interest in operating in Highland Park at this time.

Zipcar offers an “occasional driver” program for a $60-a-year membership fee plus $8.25 per hour of car usage, or $74 a day. Gas is included, but users are asked to fill the tank using a Zipcar fuel card when the gauge drops to one-quarter of a tank. Cars may be reserved online using a computer or mobile device.

Members of the Highland Park City Council Monday expressed a willingness to allow Zipcar to use two parking spaces in one of the Central Train Station lots.

Several members, however, were less willing to provide the spaces in the firm’s preferred location, the west-side parking lot on First Street near Walnut Street in front of the train depot. The lot has 101 commuter spaces.

“(Zipcar’s) interest in these spaces is largely related to their close proximity to the Metra station as well as the multi-family buildings nearby,” said Luke Banaszak, an administrative intern for the city.

According to the city, the lot is heavily used by commuters during standard business hours. However, the overflow east lot offers 234 commuter spaces, and a lot off Hazel Street another 47.

Based on early feedback, the city would charge the car sharing business the standard permit fee of $216 a year per parking space. City staff have suggested the firm also be charged the overnight parking fee of $120 per space.

The business also would be subject to the city’s automobile rental tax, which is 1 percent of gross receipts.

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