Parking during snow in Chicago
December 15, 2007 9:54 PM   Subscribe

How does Chicago's "No Parking if snow is over 2 inches" rule work out in practice? Are the blocks of cars parked on my street (Sheridan at 7600 N) all going to be towed overnight and tomorrow morning?

I know other members have been towed, but how cautious should I be?
posted by ztdavis to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't risk it after a day like today. The snow rule is one I never messed around with.
posted by sugarfish at 10:41 PM on December 15, 2007

That's what they did in Boston.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:03 PM on December 15, 2007

Best answer: Dude, don't risk it.

Yeah, it's a weekend night, yes, every other car has parked there, sure, you maybe the only guy worried about it, but comeon. This is Chicago we're talking about... there has been a cottage industry made out of towing cars in this town. The extra time you spend parking in a non-snow tow zone will pay back many times over the one time it saves you from the headache of getting your car out of the impound lot.

Check it out:

Streets & San Urges Motorists To Watch For & Obey Signs

It's time again to prepare for winter and for Chicago's annual snow-related parking restrictions. An overnight parking ban will take effect on Saturday, December 1, 2007 (at 3AM) on a number of the city's most critical arterial streets. In other words, if you go to sleep on Friday evening the ban will be in effect by the time you wake up on Saturday morning. Motorists should also be prepared for 2-inch snow restrictions, technically in effect all year round, but realistically a factor only during the winter months.

The Winter overnight parking ban takes effect on about a dozen main priority routes - approximately 107 miles of city streets - from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. between December 1st and April 1st - regardless of snow. Enforcement begins Saturday, December 1st at 3 a.m.

Motorists who ignore this permanently posted seasonal tow zone face a $150 towing fee (minimum) in addition to a $50 ticket and an initial $10 daily storage fee. If you regularly park on one of these designated streets during non-winter months, it's a good idea to secure a safe and legal alternate place to park until the restrictions expire on April 1st.

A separate seasonal parking ban exists for another 500 miles of main streets when there is at least two inches of snow on the street, no matter the time of day or the calendar date. Cars that violate this ban face ticketing and relocation to a space nearby.

Both of these seasonal restrictions are displayed on signs that are permanently posted along the designated routes. They constitute Chicago's "Snow Route System," which was created as a response to massive snow storms, including the Great Blizzard of ‘67, which halted traffic citywide."

"These restrictions were created to ensure that the streets most critical to the city's ability to function are kept up and running without fail," said Mike Picardi, Commissioner of Streets & Sanitation. "These streets must always be kept clear so that they can handle emergency vehicle and bus traffic at any time."

Past winters have taught us that people tend to leave their cars in place once a storm is underway. Illegally parked cars on these roadways prevent the routes from being fully plowed and salted. The snow that continues to fall gets pushed up against these vehicles by passing plows and that further restricts the traffic capacity of the street.

"We rely heavily on the cooperation of our residents who drive to keep these critical roadways open to their full capacity," noted Picardi. "We look forward to working with our residents to make sure that we all get through the winter months safely."
posted by wfrgms at 11:09 PM on December 15, 2007

Are the blocks of cars parked on my street all going to be towed overnight and tomorrow morning?

Well, there's really only one way to find out, right?
Or you could just move it. How long have you lived(?) here? You learn quickly that Chicago hates your car and will do everything possible to make you pay for owning it. This is just one of the more obvious traps.
posted by Su at 4:14 AM on December 16, 2007


I went on a trip once and we ended up looking for parking late at night. Our hotel was next to a central road and many people had parked there. Next morning, the locals had removed their cars and we had to go search where they towed ours.
posted by ersatz at 5:09 AM on December 16, 2007

My car in Chicago was stolen earlier this week. It was found by the cops and taken to a tow pound. When I went to pick it up, every single other person in line was there because of the snow rule.
posted by HeroZero at 6:05 AM on December 16, 2007

Don't tempt fate. Chicago seems to have a particular malicious glee when it comes to towing cars, esp. the first time they can whack people for the snow rule.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 7:56 AM on December 16, 2007

Worse than the 2" rule is that cars are frequently towed in Chicago when there's any snow at all, or when it looks like there *could* be two inches eventually. (I guess the idea of 2" is largely subjective!) Don't risk it.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:32 AM on December 16, 2007

Move it and pack your lawn furniture in the car. Chicago is notorious for "spot saving". Meaning: if you shovel out a parking spot, it is yours until the street is plowed (and usually until the snow is gone). Lots of folks hate this. The mayor of Chicago has come out and called it acceptable and not to mess with people's spots.

The tow truck drivers know that they can make a few grand on a night with snow (if they can work fast enough) so don't let these guys decide if there is enough snow to tow or not. "Gee, this looks like 2 inches of snow." Guaranteed, they will take you away.

Steve Goodman wrote this song, "The Lincoln Park Pirates", years ago. Here is the audio. Spot on, even after all these years.
posted by zerobyproxy at 9:36 AM on December 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd like to thank the poster and commenters for discussing this - I live in Chicago with a car (I've only had it for a year or so) and had no idea this happened. I will make sure to take these regulations seriously.
posted by evisceratordeath at 12:52 PM on December 16, 2007

Don't mess with the parking ban. Shovel out a legal spot and save it with a lawn chair. We take our snow, our parking, and our mayor's promises seriously in Chicago. We once got rid of a mayor who didn't get the streets plowed (granted, we got 84 inches of snow in a little over 5 weeks, but, hey what ELSE is a mayor good for?)
posted by nax at 5:06 PM on December 16, 2007

I'm going to piggy back a little bit. Is there anywhere that has a map of what streets have what parking restrictions? I always feel a little bit nervous about parking on a street with no sign.
posted by santojulieta at 8:07 PM on December 16, 2007

Do not save your spot with a lawn chair. It's a ridiculous and rude practice, I don't care what our ridiculous and rude mayor says. But yes. Move your car. Chicago seriously loves ticketing and towing cars.
posted by agregoli at 9:25 AM on December 17, 2007

Just a follow up for anyone stumbling across the thread:

Please don't save your parking space with a milk crate or lawn chair. There was probably a time when the city suffered humongous snows and had less trucks when this probably made sense, but now it's just abused by assholes. To wit:

- A few weeks ago when we got our first "good" snow of about 4-6 inches I saw people here in Pilsen putting all manner of garbage to save their spots when they required no shoveling at all! They just pulled out like normal, threw a milk crate in their spot, and drove off.

- Today, several days after the recent "big" snow where we got eight or nine inches I still saw people saving spots even though the streets are mostly clear and there is no need to dig out a spot.

- Also today I saw an entire row of about four spots reserved with milk crates.

It's just tacky. Don't be that guy. Just because it snows a few inches doesn't mean you get to park hassle free in front of your apartment for the rest of the winter!

If you see someone holding a spot this way while you're walking down the street do everyone a favor and move their milk crate, stolen traffic cone, or lawn chair to the sidewalk so people can use the spot.
posted by wfrgms at 9:34 PM on December 18, 2007

Oh and I avoid this whole mess mostly by ridding my bike through the winter. You really can live without a car in Chicago...
posted by wfrgms at 9:36 PM on December 18, 2007

Worse than the 2" rule is that cars are frequently towed in Chicago when there's any snow at all, or when it looks like there *could* be two inches eventually. (I guess the idea of 2" is largely subjective!) Don't risk it.
The snow parking ban does not require snow. It's enforced from Dec. 1 through April 1 on major roads, regardless of the weather.
posted by me3dia at 1:27 PM on December 27, 2007

What one person in Chicago thinks is tacky is what another 100 people think is their birthright.
posted by achmorrison at 11:15 PM on December 28, 2007

Pathetic, isn't it?
posted by agregoli at 8:47 AM on December 31, 2007

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