Free Sunday parking meters causing confusion

June 16, 2013 (CHICAGO)

They were confused because some drivers in those wards still had to pay Sunday. The company that owns the meters cannot change all the meters at once, so it will take time before all are done.

A couple days ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office was eager to announce that it's July 1 free Sunday start date was ahead of schedule.

Free Sundays or not? Chicago's parking meter saga took another confusing turn Sunday when some parkers didn't know if they were supposed to feed the meter.

Terrence McDaniel paid $8 for four hours of parking in Hyde Park.

"A police officer rode by and said, 'I think today is free.' Right then the meter went through."

The mayor's office announced its new parking meter deal that includes free Sundays began Sunday in parts of 10 wards, including Hyde Park, which is in the 3rd and 4th Wards.

The company that owns the meters must change all 4,400 pay boxes individually. It's a job that will take until July 1. So, Chicago Parking Meter Company says until the meter rejects your money and you see signage, drivers must continue to pay for parking on Sundays. Many merchants are in no hurry to return to free Sundays.

"If these meters were free all day on Sunday, people would park all day and businesses would never change clientele," said Wallace Goode, executive director of Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce.

In exchange for free Sundays the new plan calls for extended parking hours until 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday. While it overwhelming passed in city council, close to a dozen aldermen voted against.

"It was a wash in terms of overall benefit to the citizens and taxpayers, it's a bad deal then a bad deal now," said Alderman Bob Fioretti.

Despite that, many who park in the city say a free day is a good deal to them.

"Sundays is usually everybody's off day, give us a break," said Stephen King.

"I think it is great," said Candace Gray. "Parking is so expensive it's ridiculous."

While drivers are happy with it, the alderman that are not, can opt out of free Sundays. However, an ordinance must be passed by city council to restore free Sundays.

As of Sunday night, the parking meter company has completed changing pay boxes in six wards.

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