Free Sunday parking may end soon


Angela Conners

Free Sunday parking may end soon

By Assistant Metro Editor

Free Sunday parking may come to a halt in parts of the Wicker Park, Bucktown, Lakeview and Lincoln Park neighborhoods if Mayor Rahm Emanuel heeds several aldermen’s concerns.

Emanuel introduced the parking ordinance April 2 to the City Council to appease local chambers of commerce and aldermen who claim that locals monopolize spots during free parking hours.

Maureen Martino, executive director of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce, said many motorists leave their cars parked for hours, sometimes overnight from Saturday to Sunday. 

“We can’t move traffic,” Martino said. “Free parking may be good in some portions of the city but not when you are in a very densely populated commercial district.”

The ordinance would reinstate paid parking on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on certain streets without adjusting weekday meter hours, which Emanuel extended in June 2013. He implemented free Sunday parking to ease tensions regarding his decision to extend paid weekday parking hours.

Emanuel revised a 75-year contract with Chicago Parking Meters, the operators of the city’s parking meter system, granting Chicagoans free Sunday parking in exchange for extended meter hours on weekdays from 8 a.m. until midnight downtown and until 10 p.m. in neighborhoods. The City Council approved the changes on June 5. Drivers saved $2.1 million from Sunday parking fares between July 1 and Dec. 31, according to a March 4 Navigant Consulting study. 

Tim Gillengerten, the owner of Transit Tees, 1371 N. Milwaukee Ave., said bringing back the Sunday parking fare would increase traffic to his shop but added that he would prefer the maximum parking duration be extended from two hours to three hours.  

“Ideally a compromise could be to extend the parking time,” Gillengerten said. “That would solve a lot of issues for people who want to shop and go to a restaurant.” 

Gillengerten’s business is one of many Wicker Park stores along Milwaukee Avenue, a street that is filled with cars and experiences heavy traffic.

“By having the time limits, it causes people to move and provides more spaces for people to shop,” Gillengerten said. “On Milwaukee Avenue, people are already saying that they couldn’t find parking. It’s a huge issue.”

Kelly Wolfe, manager of Buffalo Exchange, a secondhand clothing store located at 1478 N. Milwaukee Ave., said the store has not been impacted by the city’s free Sunday parking regulations. Wolfe also said she understands why some of her customers might be inconvenienced by the reinstatement of paid parking on Sundays.

“Once you have not been paying for something for a while, it’s a bummer to be paying for it,” Wolfe said. “Maybe we will see a few less sellers coming through the door on Sunday, if anything.”

Jason Cox, associate director of the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, said free Sunday parking has not impacted some neighborhoods, adding that the chamber has not received complaints from businesses about customers being unable to find parking.

“We wanted to give it some time to see how free Sundays worked out and if our businesses had any reaction,” Cox said. “We really haven’t heard anything positive or negative.”

Despite the financial benefits, Martino said it is unfortunate that it has taken so long for the mayor to revisit Sunday parking because drivers have grown accustomed to free parking and would likely have trouble identifying which streets and neighborhoods will continue offering free parking and which will require them to pay. 

The ordinance to reinstate paid Sunday parking was deferred to the Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety and will be discussed at the April 23 City Council meeting.