April 12, 2005

Hyde Park residents heed signs, scramble to avoid tickets

Many Hyde Park car owners returned to their cars to find dreaded orange parking tickets on their windshields last week.

April 1 marks the official start of the full-time street sweeping service in Chicago, which also terminated the winter overnight parking ban for much of the city's main routes. Until December 1, local motorists must comply with the hundreds of bright orange signs lining Hyde Park streets, relocating their vehicles if they want to avoid a hefty $50 parking ticket and possibility of towing.

According to the City of Chicago's website, curb-to-curb street cleaning requires temporary parking restrictions to be posted the day before the work is scheduled to begin on any street. "Some arterial streets have permanently posted signs that specify a once-per-week period when parking is prohibited for street sweeping," reads the statement.

Despite its strict enforcement of parking violations during the restricted times, the City of Chicago adheres to a "Parking and Compliance Violation Bill of Rights," giving motorists the opportunity to contest a ticket on a number of grounds. According to its website, the City is committed to the highest expectations of convenience, fairness, accuracy, efficiency, and enforcement in the process of investigating a parking ticket. "Motorists have the right to timely challenge any tickets believed to have been issued in errorÂ…[and] to timely appeal any adverse decision," reads the document.

The Chicago Department of Revenue, which handles all payments of parking tickets in the city, has noted an interesting trend over the past few years. According to a department spokesperson, 321,711 street-cleaning tickets were issued in 2003, with similar totals in 2004 and over the past seven years. Still, the copious ticketing has not deterred motorists, whose illegal parking continues to boost the city's revenue.

"The amount of tickets issued has remained pretty steady, but more people have been paying the parking tickets every year," said the spokesperson. "There are more options for payment and everything is more convenient for motorists." Commenting on public sentiment about over-ticketing, the department maintains that these statistics are evidence of a typical spring-cleaning season for motorists and parking violations. "The full-time schedule has literally just started, so obviously there will be an increase in street sweeping in comparison to two weeks ago," added the spokesperson.

Becky Vonderlack, a resident head for Filbey House in the Shoreland, notes that the University administration does not inform staff about street cleaning schedules. "If anything, resident heads who know about the street cleaning will send out e-mails to residents and inform them to move their vehicles," Vonderlack said. "But considering the number of tickets I've gotten already, it would be nice to know beforehand."

The street-cleaning schedule is determined by the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation on a ward-by-ward basis. For information about street-sweeping parking restrictions and scheduled cleaning days, residents are advised to call their ward superintendent.