Emanuel proposes parking reservation program at O’Hare and Midway

SHARE Emanuel proposes parking reservation program at O’Hare and Midway
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Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to create a parking reservation program at O’Hare and Midway airports. That would allow drivers to avoid driving around and around to find a spot - if they’re willing to pay extra. | Associated Press File Photo

The days of aimlessly driving from floor-to-floor at the O’Hare Airport parking garage in search of a space you can’t find may soon become a distant memory — at least for those willing to pay a little extra.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced an ordinance that would empower newly appointed Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans to establish a “parking reservation program” at O’Hare and Midway with a fee of no less than $10 per day on top of parking fees and taxes.

The commissioner was further authorized to establish an incentive-laden program to reward “frequent parkers” and to offer “additional premium parking services” that may include “car washing, car detailing and light maintenance services.”

The precise number of parking spaces that would be made available for reservation was not immediately known. O’Hare already offers valet parking for a much higher price.

“When they arrive, they will have a guaranteed spot waiting for them to streamline the parking process and allow the passenger more time to check in and get to their gate,” a mayoral aide wrote in an email.

Evans, whose appointment was approved by the Council Wednesday, would also be granted the authority to “negotiate and execute an airport access agreement with any off-airport parking service provider that uses airport roadways or other airport facilities to pick up, drop off or otherwise serve customers” at either airport.

Those terms may include an “access fee and/or concession fee of not less than ten percent of gross revenues received” from transactions with customers using airport roadways and facilities at O’Hare and Midway.

No off-airport parking service provider would be permitted to use airport roadways and facilities to pick up drop off and service passengers without such an agreement.

The crackdown would help the city “track and monitor” off-airport parking services and “require they adhere to pick up and drop off locations at the airports to ensure safe and efficient ground transportation operations for the traveling public,” the mayoral aide said.

At her City Council confirmation hearing this week, Evans called herself the “go-fast” lady and vowed to pursue “quick wins” to improve customer service at O’Hare and Midway.

The mayor’s ordinance would allow her to do just that — by alleviating the O’Hare parking crunch that has been known to close the world’s largest parking garage during busy, mid-week travel days.

Emanuel wasn’t the only one focused on airports at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

Finance Committee Chairman Edward Burke (14th) joined Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) in introducing an ordinance that would require O’Hare and Midway to provide “lactation rooms” in each terminal where mothers can breast-feed their babies.

A state law with similar requirements is awaiting Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature. But it would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2017.

“Nursing mothers should not have to wait until 2017 for clean and private spaces to breast-feed their infants at Chicago airports,” Burke was quoted as saying in a press release.

Hairston added, “We can’t be a world-class city if we don’t have world-class accommodations for the world visitors who come through Chicago airports,” including new mothers.

The ordinance states, “Each room . . . shall be located outside the confines of a public restroom and shall include, at a minimum, a lockable door, a chair, a table, an electrical outlet and a sink with running water.”

It’s patterned after the federal law proposed by U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a candidate for the U.S. Senate, who happens to be a new mom.

Burke said he hopes City Council hearings on the subject will “greatly increase public awareness of the need to accommodate nursing mothers” and serve to rally support for congressional action.

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