CITY HALL — After more than 30 years on the books, Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) says it might be time to freeze the city's winter overnight parking ban.
The mayoral candidate introduced a resolution at Wednesday's City Council meeting calling for a hard look at the 34-year-old practice to see if it needs to be revised or even eliminated altogether.
Fioretti's resolution had four other signers including aldermen Scott Waguespack (32nd), John Arena (45th), Nick Sposato (36th), Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Roderick Sawyer (6th).
Beginning every December 1st and continuing until April 1st, parking is prohibited on 107 miles of what the city considers "vital arterial streets" every early morning from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. — whether there's snow on the pavement or not.
Thousands of unwary motorists every winter end up at one of the city's auto pounds to pay the $150 in tow fees and a $20 per day storage fees to retrieve their vehicles, in addition to the $60 parking ticket for violating the ban. Historically, the city tows 8,000 to 9,000 vehicles every season, generating nearly $2 million in fees and fines for the city.
On December 1st, the first night of the ban this year, 239 vehicles were towed away.
The ban first began in 1980 as a solution to another possible snowfall of overwhelming proportions after the the historic blizzard of 1979, the fourth largest snowfall in city history.
Molly Poppe, a spokeswoman for the Department of Streets and Sanitation, said getting rid of the ban would make snow plowing much harder.
"Residents of Chicago have high expectations for removal of snow," she said. " ... A key component to our snow operations is quickly and efficiently removing snow from key arterial routes throughout the City. Eliminating the Overnight Parking Ban would make it impossible ... to respond to common overnight storms in a way that residents expect."
Fioretti said he believes that advances in metrological technology have improved so much in the past 34 years that it's easier to have advanced warning when a major snowstorm is approaching.
In addition, technology in alerting people via smart phones and personal computers has made it easier to keep drivers informed.
"I think we can all understand from the 1979 snowstorm the need for the ban at the time," explained Fioretti. "But with advances in technology and weather prediction, how does that impact the need for the ban, and how can it help improve the quality of life in Chicago?"
But according to the alderman, there are other reasons to review the ban.
"We've had issues with signs not going up and people getting towed in the past," said Fioretti. "There's a lot of confusion with some signs that address the overnight ban and also say no parking when the snow is over 2 inches. Its very confusing."
Fioretti is going to try to have hearings on the parking ban as soon as possible.
"We probably should have looked at this over the summer but I think we need a full hearing on the ban," said Fioretti. "This really needs to be looked at."
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