No more free parking along lakefront

April 13, 2010 (CHICAGO)

About 1,500 of the city's 4,000 lakefront parking spaces already have pay boxes.

It will now cost $1 per hour during the day to park along the lakefront. The park district approved the new fees last year but many people who are coming to the beaches are seeing the pay boxes for the first time and they are not happy.

Thanks to the vision of the city's forefathers, Chicago has miles of open lake front park space. The beaches are among the top attractions, especially in the summer and to many the best part is it that it's all free. But now if you want to bring your car, you'll have to pay. That caught park visitors by surprise Tuesday.

"When I first saw the parking meter, I was, like, 'are they really going to do that?' And then, yes, they really did it," said Yvonne Williams, park visitor.

"I don't think it's fair. The parks are supposed to be free for everybody. You know, recreation," said John Bailey El, park visitor.

The park district controls about 4,000 parking spots along the lakefront. Last summer, they approved a plan to put meters in and they now have pay boxes installed in about a third of all lots. They should all be in by June. The Standard Parking Company runs the meters for the park district.

"Some people don't like to pay but the machines work. They've been pretty reliable," said Jim Healy, Standard Parking

The pay boxes work in much the same way as the ones the city has installed for street parking. Receipts from the boxes can be used at any lakefront parking lot and have no maximum time limit. That's little consolation for many park users, however.

"Parks and beaches should be exempt from the pay to park. That's family recreation. We should haven't to pay to bring our kids out to the park or for us to sit on the beach and enjoy the day. It's crazy. It don't make no sense," said Adella Garner, park visitor.

The city issued a statement saying that the meters are part of a series of what they call modest budget fee increases that allowed officials to balance the budget last year without increasing property taxes.

The parking meters are expected to raise about $1.5 million.

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