Lincoln Park Chamber Asks Merchants to Lobby Against Free Sunday Parking

Chicago Lincoln Park 2005
The Clark Street business strip in Lincoln Park. Photo: JH01 via Flickr

Kudos to the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce for taking a stand against free Sunday parking. As reported by DNAinfo, last week the chamber sent its members an email titled, “Call to Action: End Free Sunday Parking at Meters.” The message asks merchants to contact aldermen like Scott Waguespack (32nd), Michele Smith (43rd), and Robert Fioretti (2nd), to show support for bringing paid parking back to their retail districts sooner than later. “Our understanding is feedback from business constituents would help sway those forces that are holding it up,” explained chamber spokesman Padraic Swanton.

The chamber has been trying to get the parking policy reversed for several months, because free parking on business strips encourages long-term parking, which reduces turnaround and makes it harder to patronize shops. Under the current rules, some people leave their cars in spaces on Saturday night and don’t move them until Monday, so there are fewer spots available for short-term parking, Swanton said. Merchants in Lincoln Park and other retail-dense neighborhoods are complaining that the lack of turnover is hurting their bottom line.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed for free Sunday parking outside of the central business district as part of last spring’s fishy renegotiation of the hated parking meter deal, which also included adding meter hours on other days of the week. During City Council hearings on the reboot nearly a year ago, aldermen from neighborhoods like Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, Lakeview, and Portage Park asked about opting out of free Sundays and were told they could eventually do so.

Last summer, after the new policy was implemented and turnover slowed down in their districts, some aldermen sent letters to Emanuel’s office asking to bring back metered Sunday parking. In December, the mayor’s office asked them to resubmit their requests.

Earlier this month Emanuel issued a press release crowing about a study by Navigant Consulting that found the “savings” for drivers from free Sunday parking have been greater than expected. As Steven Vance wrote at the time, the report raises questions about whether the mayor will keep his promise to allow aldermen to opt out, because then the numbers wouldn’t look as good.

Waguespack, who spearheaded the opposition to the reboot, responded with his own press release. He argued that the report “overlooks or simply ignores that removing Sunday parking fees alters the utilization patterns of metered parking spaces in ways that make parking less convent for residents and less beneficial for businesses.”

Last week the alderman told DNA that it’s clear Emanuel doesn’t intend to allow business strips to opt out of free Sundays. He said that if there’s no action on the issue within the next few weeks, he’ll introduce an ordinance on the matter at the April City Council meeting.

Hopefully, pressure from aldermen, chambers of commerce, and business owners will force Emanuel to give in on this harmful policy. Free Sunday parking and the resulting space hogging doesn’t just hurt independent retailers and inconvenience people who want to patronize businesses by car. By causing motorists to cruise for spots and double park, it also makes conditions worse for walking, biking and transit use. Rather than offer free spaces, the mayor should pressure the parking concessionaire to adjust the price of parking throughout the day so that an optimal number of spaces will be available.

  • CL

    Ah, but those customers should be taking the red or brown lines to Lincoln Park. Metered Sunday parking will just encourage more driving. I think it’s better to leave the spaces for residents, who don’t have a choice — they need to park their cars somewhere in the area.

  • Lizzyisi

    Every time I see this headline, I have a brief moment of hope that it’s about merchants banding together to discourage driving and to demand better transit and pedestrian facilities for their businesses. Then I realize that that is unlikely to ever happen. I don’t feel merchants really care about the quality of life in the neighborhoods where they are enough to take the risk.

  • internetson

    Maybe if half the parking on my street wasn’t blocked by dumpsters, cones, and traffic horses for the construction of new multi-million dollar single-family homes I would be more sympathetic to the cause. But it is, and has been for at least 6-9 months. So I’m not.

  • cjlane

    “leave the spaces for residents, who don’t have a choice — they need to park their cars somewhere in the area.”

    Why? If they *don’t* park in the area, or pay for off-street parking, does someone put them in jail?

    That’s honestly the *worst* excuse I’ve ever heard for free parking–people MUST have cars and MUST park them near their homes.

  • CL

    What I mean is that, if a person owns a car, they need to store it reasonably near their home. Whether they pay for parking, have a garage, or use the street, the car needs to be within walking distance of their homes.

    But they don’t need to use the car for any individual trip — they can decide to take public transit instead. If parking is scarce near their destination, they can choose alternatives.

    But residents of Lincoln Park cannot choose to not park in Lincoln Park, unless they get rid of their cars altogether. (I guess in theory they could store the car elsewhere and take a cab home from their parking space, but that defeats the purpose of having a car)

  • Permit parking is an option for making sure spaces on side streets are available for residents, so they don’t park in spaces on retail strips, which should remain available for shoppers.

  • CL

    In practice, there are a lot of problems with permits too. They create a patchwork of zones so that when neighbors can’t find parking on their own block, they can’t find parking a few blocks away either because that’s a different zone. I live near a few zones, and they drive me crazy because I’m trying to park there as a resident who got home late, but I can’t because I don’t live in the exact boundaries of the zone.

    People are parking at the meters because there isn’t enough residential parking at night. Those streets are the last resort for people who know they’re going to have to move it on Sunday.

  • cjlane

    ” if a person owns a car, they need to store it reasonably near their home.”

    No, they don’t. They WANT to, but there is nothing that *requires* that.

  • forensicgarlic

    The house next to me on Belden has had a “Construction, no parking” sign on it for the last 8 months, and noone actually doing construction for the last 4 months.

  • peter

    On the other hand, how about the tons of “shoppers” that illegally park in the residential zones? I live in Lincoln Park, and see tons of metered parking open, and the residential streets packed with cars WITHOUT 143 stickers. One of the restaurants actually valets the cars in the residential zones!

  • lindsaybanks

    Just a comment on the last line of the article: “Rather than offer free spaces, the mayor should pressure the parking concessionaire to adjust the price of parking throughout the day so that an optimal number of spaces will be available.”

    The Parking Meter Concession agreement allows the City to implement variable priced parking. The city doesn’t have to pressure CPM, they just have to guarantee a baseline revenue equivalent to what they’re getting now. So in places where the occupancy is low and they’re charging $2 / hour, they might actually make more money if they charged $1 / hour. And as long as the income that CPM gets is meeting their baseline–and the City has data on what that is– they can do whatever they want with the meter prices. And if the City generates more revenue than what CPM expects, they capture that value and can use it for future payments to CPM (for road closures, construction, etc).

    But no one seems to be looking at this holistically! I think that it would be better if aldermen let their Chambers determine appropriate meter prices (within the parameters).

    You can read more about the details of the parking meter deal in our Wicker Park Bucktown parking paper that you guys wrote about (PAGE 44 of the big PDF): http://chi.streetsblog.org/2014/07/02/wicker-park-counts-up-better-ways-to-use-its-11650-parking-spaces/

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