HUMBOLDT PARK — By car, by taxi, by bus, on foot and by bicycle, a steady stream of upset drivers came to a city auto pound in Humboldt Park Tuesday to get their car back after the first night of the city's annual Winter Overnight Parking Ban.
"I was on my way to work and came out — and my car was gone," said Chandra Cleveland, whose car was towed from Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park to City Auto Pound #6, 701 N. Sacramento Ave. "It sucks, it really does. "
The annual ban went into effect at 3 a.m. Tuesday. Cars cannot be parked on designated streets between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. during the winter months until the end of March.
Edward Stokes from Rogers Park, who drove his daughter to the pound to retrieve her car, was more sanguine.
"The signs says cars can't be parked there on December 1st," admitted Stokes. "She thought it was midnight tonight instead of last night."
Beyond the inconvenience, many motorists were unhappy with the expensive hit to their wallet. Vehicle owners had to pay $150 towing fee, a $20 storage fee per day to get their car released from the city auto pound and still have to fork over $60 for the parking ticket for violating the ban.
"It's costly and inconvenient," fumed Cleveland.
"I thought my car was stolen," said Sergio Hernandez of Humboldt Park. "I'm mad. It is very expensive."
According to the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation, 200 vehicles were towed overnight, a decline from the 239 cars towed last year.
Department spokesman Jennifer Martinez was glad tows were down from last year.
"It shows people got the info and were watching the signs," said Martinez. "Anyone can sympathize with drivers who get towed — no one wants their car towed. If you're not parked illegally, you won't be towed. We're not trying to surprise anyone. Ideally, we don't want to tow anyone."
The ban covers 107 miles of major arterial streets and the city says the decades-old practice ensures city snow plows can effectively clear snow in case of a surprise overnight storm.
But many of the drivers at the auto pound don't understand why the ban is still necessary with modern storm forecasting technology.
"I think it's a bit outdated with today's technologies," said Stokes.
"It's not necessary because there's no snow on the ground," said Cleveland who believes people could alerted of a parking ban when snow is on the way or if there's a certain amount of snow on the street. "They could re-phrase the signs so that they only tow when there's two inches of snow on the ground."
Cleveland's uncle Jimmy Cleveland thinks the city continues the ban for the revenue: "I think it's just about the money," he said with a laugh.
Martinez is hopeful city tow trucks will snag less cars on the second night of the ban.
"That's our hope," says Martinez. "We're happy when residents observe the parking ban. People should continue to watch the signs because the ban continues until March 31st."
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