City eliminates free parking by lakefront

By BrittanyRodgers

On a beautiful day in Chicago, many people park their vehicles along the lakefront to enjoy their day at no cost. In the next four to six weeks, Chicago residents and tourists will no longer be allowed to park for free. Instead, they will have to pay $1 an hour.

“The parks have always been a place where people can enjoy themselves at minimum cost,” said 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston in a press release. “At 63rd Street Beach, you have beautiful landscaping, a renovated historic beach house, pavilion and sprinkler fountains for children. There aren’t many places left where individuals, families and friends can afford such amenities in a lakefront setting.”

Kimberly Webb, 5th Ward chief of staff, said the parking meters will affect the flow of traffic at the lakefront parks.

“They’re trying to help out the community of 63rd Street Beach by using funds from the menu money the alderman receives every year,” Webb said.

Menu money is money that each Chicago alderman receives annually to spend on their ward, such as on streets, alleys, sidewalks, street lights and maintenance.

“We’re going to use some of the money to feed the meters for people who go to 63rd Street Beach and give [some of] the money to the Chicago Park District,” Webb said.

Zvez Kubat, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Park District, said the economic climate is forcing public places to fill in the gap of our city’s budget.

“Instead of increasing property tax, meters will be put out,” Kubat said. “It’s all to save jobs and not have [many] budget cuts.”

Currently, most of the parking meters in Chicago are owned by LAZ Parking, but Standard Parking will take over the 4,400 spots along the lakefront.

“We put out a bid and Standard Parking came in at the lowest [price],” Kubat said. “We worked with them in the past parking garages so that was another great reason to work with them [again].”

Kubat said Standard Parking has no pay boxes within the Chicago Park District yet and doesn’t know exactly where they will start putting them.

“We’re trying to figure out a schedule on where they’re going to put them and when they’re going to go up,” Kubat said.

Most parking meters in the Chicago area require patrons to pay seven days a week, including holidays. However, many of the pay boxes offer free parking from 9 p.m. – 8 a.m. Pay box rates for a majority of these areas are $1 per hour. In the South Loop, pay boxes run 24 hours at $3.50 per hour, and outside the Loop, rates are $2 per hour.

Although vendors have changed pay boxes, how to pay will not change. The pay boxes accept quarters, as well as major credit or debit cards. Once drivers pay for a parking spot, they must display the receipt on the dashboard of their vehicle.

Changing the parking vendor is now the subject of a lawsuit filed by The Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization.

“We decided this plan in November 2008, and the lawsuit just started a couple of weeks ago,” Kubat said.

Jeremy Rothschild, director of marketing for Bike Chicago, said installation of the meters could change the way people come into the city.

“It could change the plans of what people would do rather than park their vehicles; they might drive into the Loop [and park in] one of the Millennium [Park] garages,” Rothschild said. “Parking isn’t just about parking a car, it affects traffic patterns and could really change things.”

Bike Chicago is located at various beaches, where certain locations have parking garages alongside them and others have to park along the lakefront.

Rothschild said the decision should’ve been more carefully approached.

“When [the city] decided to do this, they just looked at it from a financial perspective,” Rothschild said. “There are a lot of parking effects outside of the Standard Parking issue and it might change people’s behavior.”