Task force to evaluate permit parking

By Meghan Keyes

On an average day in Wrigleyville, free parking is scarce. Meters line the main streets and permits govern the residential roads. During a Cubs game, the chance of finding a free or cheap parking spot is almost impossible, unless you have a permit.

Two aldermen have proposed an ordinance to create a permit parking task force that would reevaluate the permit parking system. Alderman Tom Tunney (44th Ward) and Alderman Vi Daley (43rd Ward) introduced the ordinance on Nov. 3, which was later referred to the City Council Committee on Traffic Control and Safety.

The task force, as described by the aldermen’s offices, would examine problems and complaints citywide with the current permit system run by the City Clerk’s office. After evaluation, it could propose amendments or ordinances to remedy the issues.

“It will be taking a look at how the program can be amended,” said Max Bever, community outreach director for Tunney. “This is a big problem for both the 44th and 43rd wards.”

The 44th Ward includes Lakeview and Wrigleyville, and the 43rd Ward includes Lincoln Park.

“The number of problems we’ve seen since the implementation [of permit parking] was not foreseeable,” said Barbara Guttmann, legislative aide for Daley. “It’s been 15 or 20 years since the original ordinance, and I think this is a healthy exercise—let’s make changes.”

A main concern echoed in both offices was the effect of permit parking on local businesses. Employees do not always have parking available to them and have to park in the community. Some streets don’t have permits in effect until the evening, but many restaurants and bars in the area are open late.

“People who come to work at businesses [in the neighborhood] can’t run to their vehicle every two hours and pay the meter,” Bever said. “They often get tickets past 6 or 7 p.m.”

Guttmann said small businesses’ parking problems are the biggest concern.

“Parking pay boxes are a good thing [because] they discourage employees from parking on the street,” Guttmann said. “But these same employees are having trouble finding other parking.”

The Old Town School of Folk Music operates in Lincoln Park and Lincoln Square. It downsized its Lincoln Park location after some issues, including parking.

“[Permit parking] really limits the adult classes we can hold there,” said Gail Tyler, business director at Old Town School of Folk Music. “Our angle for this is working with the businesses to keep the permit parking at a minimum so we can actually function here.”

The school operates a parking lot in Lincoln Square. Their employees park farther away so students and visitors can use the paid lot.   At the Lincoln Park location, parking arrangements for employees were made with a business approximately half a mile away.

“It can kill a business,” Tyler said. “I get why people want to park in front of their apartment building, but as a Chicago resident, and not speaking for the school, my taxes paid for those streets too.”

Aside from local business, each ward office had other problems. Bever said especially near Wrigleyville, people hoard the guest parking permits and sell them during Cubs games. Guttmann explained the current parking permit system does not cover trucks or large vans.

“If you live on a permit parking street and your water pipes burst, the plumber could not park in front,” Guttmann said. “If your friend comes in with a pickup truck, your guest passes do not suffice.”

The task force would work on permit parking problems throughout Chicago, although the representatives were unsure of what problems exist in other parts of the city.

“It’s one of the things the task force will learn—what problems are in different areas,” Guttmann said. “We can explain what we’re aware of, but we don’t know how it [has] affected other neighborhoods. We can get more information from other areas of the city.”

The aldermen’s offices said they were positive about the future of the ordinance and believe it will yield good results.

“We are optimistic this will bring some well-needed opportunities and alternatives,” Bever said. “There are options that both protect residents but expand and give opportunity to employers.”