WEST LOOP — Confusion reigns over whether a West Loop mid-day parking ban remained in effect the last several months, but aldermen and neighborhood groups are now advising residents not to park on the streets where restrictions were enacted.
Beginning last July, parking was banned along select neighborhood streets from 1:30-3:30 p.m. during the week in an effort to curb the number of "day trippers" who commuted to the neighborhood and then went to work Downtown.
While the ban helped cut down the number of day trippers, local businesses and residents didn't like it and sought to end it.
The pilot ban was supposed to last six months, and many neighborhood groups and even aldermen thought it had ended in December, even though the signs spelling out the ban remained in place while a new program was created.
In May, the president of the West Loop Community Organization, which developed the initial ban, told DNAinfo Chicago that residents could park in restricted parking spaces without the risk of being ticketed or towed since the pilot was over.
But on Friday, Martha Goldstein, the group's executive director, said the rules were unclear and said residents should avoid parking in the restricted areas.
"We're getting different answers from different aldermen, so this is getting really frustrating," she said. " ... As an organization were certainly trying to do the right thing, not the wrong thing. We don’t want to upset people in the neighborhood. All I can say is, if a sign says, 'Don’t park here,' don’t park here."
She requested that the city cover the signs or take them down while the details of a new program are being worked out, but so far has not received a response.
Department of Transportation officials also did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the ban from DNAinfo Chicago over the past two months.
But 27th Ward Ald. Walter Burnett, whose ward contains some of the streets where parking is restricted, said the ordinance that authorized the initial pilot project actually didn't expire until March 30. Then, on May 28, the council voted to reinstate the parking restrictions as a temporary solution until West Loop community groups could come to a consensus on how to move the program forward.
The alderman said residents ticketed or towed between March 30 and May 28 should challenge the citations, as there was no ordinance in place during that time. Others, however, might be out of luck.
West Loop resident Melissa Beilstein's car was towed outside her home on Monroe Street just west of Throop Street the same day the council voted to reinstate the restrictions in late May. She said Friday that she was under the impression that those restrictions had ended last year.
"This was an initiative that was supposed to preserve parking for residents, and the fact that it failed so miserably is just disappointing. It's disheartening," said Beilstein, 42, who is contesting the ticket.
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), whose ward also contains some of the streets covered by the ban, said he wants to resolve the situation as soon as possible.
"I'm calling for a community meeting between the two community groups and I want the solution resolved over the next few days," he said. "Either we are going to maintain the pilot program in its entirety or we will repeal it, depending on what the community wants."
A committee made up of Goldstein's group and another neighborhood group, the West Central Association, had proposed restrictions that would prohibit parking from 7-9 a.m. along multiple residential streets. Residents, however, would be able to obtain a permit to park on those streets at those times.
But that proposal has yet to be introduced before the City Council, and Fioretti — who contributed $10,000 in aldermanic funds to help pay for the signs used in the pilot program — said it's still unclear how new signs will be paid for.
In the meantime, with conflicting information from neighborhood groups and aldermen, he understands why residents are unsure where to park.
"I can see why the residents are confused," Fioretti said.