Where to park in Chicago during a snowstorm

The city can implement a parking ban covering hundreds of miles of roadways when there’s two inches or more of snow.

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Ismael Carreno brushes the snow from his car parked on Albany Ave. on Chicago’s northwest side

Michael R. Schmidt/For the Sun-Times

With the first big winter storm of the season set to hit the Chicago area Monday afternoon, the city could see several inches of snow. For residents who own cars, that often leads to the question of where to legally park.

The city can activate a snow-related parking ban on hundreds of miles of roadways when there’s at least two inches of snow on the streets. This doesn’t happen often, but with the National Weather Service projecting five to eight inches of snow through midday Tuesday, motorists will want to be ready.

The snow-related parking ban covers the 107 miles of city streets included in the Winter Overnight Parking Ban along with another 500 miles of main streets. The city says cars left on those streets prevent the routes from being fully snowplowed and salted when major storms hit.

Motorists who leave their cars parked on those streets face a towing fee of at least $150 along with a $60 ticket and an initial $25 daily storage fee.

Every street that can be hit with the snow-related parking ban will have signage spelling that out. Here’s a graphic from the city detailing what the different signs look like:

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City of Chicago

A full map of the 107 miles covered by the Winter Overnight Parking Ban can be found here.

The winter parking bans were implemented by the city “to prevent recurrences of problems that happened in 1967 and 1979 when Chicago came to a traffic standstill due to major snowstorms.”

What about calling “dibs”?

The parking ban also means the more limited number of parking spots available become more coveted, especially once someone has dug out their car themselves. Many motorists will try to hold onto their space with a lawn chair, traffic cone or some other way of calling “dibs” on the spot.

The claiming of a public parking spot is illegal in practice, but enforcement can be rare. In the spring of 2019, the Department of Streets and Sanitation made a statement that it would begin clearing clears of “debris” during regular garbage collection routes, but that was after the snow melted.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has also not firmly stood against the practice. “I don’t encourage ‘dibs.’ I understand it’s a long-standing tradition. I understand why people do it,” Lightfoot said at a news conference on the city’s winter weather preparedness plan. “But we don’t encourage it.”

What if your vehicle gets towed?

Information on vehicles towed or relocated by the city can be found here.

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