City tows 242 drivers on first night of winter parking ban. ‘This is horrible, horrible,’ driver says

The yearly tradition seems to always catch people off guard. Many of them complained the ban was unfair, the signs were inadequate and the penalties too steep.

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John Biggs stands outside after receiving a slip to retrieve his vehicle at the Chicago Auto Pound at 701 N. Sacramento Ave. in Humboldt Park, Thursday, December 1, 2022.

John Biggs holds the slip needed to retrieve his vehicle Thursday at the Chicago Auto Pound at 701 N. Sacramento Ave. in Humboldt Park.

Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

John Biggs thought his car had been stolen when he found it missing from where he parked it on Division Street near Central.

He reported it stolen to police — and only then realized his car had been towed on the first night of Chicago’s yearly winter parking ban, which is enforced whether there’s snow or not.

“I’m thinking, man, did someone really steal my car? With all my tools and equipment,” said Biggs, a carpenter.

He was one of 242 drivers caught by surprise Thursday morning, according to the Department of Streets and Sanitation. That’s more than the 192 vehicles towed on the same night last year.

Violators are towed and hit with a minimum of a $150 towing fee, a $60 ticket and a storage fee of $25 per day. Towed vehicles will end up at a pound at 10301 S. Doty Ave. or 701 N. Sacramento Ave.

The overnight ban will remain in effect through April 1 on 107 miles of main streets throughout the city between 3 and 7 a.m. Those streets include parts of Madison, Division, Central, Archer, Kedzie, King, Cottage Grove, 79th and 103rd streets.

The yearly tradition seems to always catch people off guard. Many people who spoke with a reporter Thursday complained the ban was unfair, the signs were inadequate and the penalties too steep.

Janese Rios came to the impound lot with her son Cayden. She meant to pick up her towed car but had to return to her Humboldt Park home because she forgot her car keys.

“We just read the sign wrong. I thought it was only when it’s snowing,” Rios said. “I’m annoyed. And now I’ve got to go through all this — in cold weather — and now he’s late for school. ... We’ve lost $175 ... and $40 for the Uber.”

Janese Rios and her son Cayden wait to retrieve their vehicle at the Chicago Auto Pound at 701 N. Sacramento Ave in Humboldt Park, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022.

Janese Rios and her son Cayden wait to retrieve their vehicle Thursday at the Chicago Auto Pound at 701 N. Sacramento Ave.

Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

A woman who called herself Margaret said she dropped off her daughter at the lot to pick up the daughter’s towed car.

“This is horrible, horrible Chicago,” she said.

The city implemented the annual parking ban after major snowstorms in 1967 and 1979. The city says the parking ban ensures plows can quickly respond to snow on major roads.

In 2015, Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) proposed an ordinance to give first-time parking ban offenders a break by issuing a warning first. The ordinance did not pass but Maldonado said Thursday he might reintroduce it.

He called the city’s approach “ridiculous” and outdated, considering how much weather prediction has advanced in the decades since the winter parking ban began.

“There’s no reason they can’t delay the onset of this rule until they know snow is coming down,” Maldonado said. “In the absence of the ordinance, they can take it upon themselves to issue a warning on the violators for the first time. There’s no reason they can’t do this on their own.”

Some ward residents who have been towed have complained they are new to the neighborhood and the parking ban signs are faded, Maldonado said.

“There needs to be a better way for the city to accomplish what it wants to accomplish. They need to be responsible to people’s pocketbooks,” he said.

Outside the impound lot on Sacramento, Biggs said, “It’s really stressful.”

What would usually just be a minimum $235 fine turned into a bigger ordeal because now he had to coordinate with Chicago police to remove his car from the reported-stolen list before he could retrieve the car from the lot.

He said the city did not mark his car on the online towed list, and that an employee at the Sacramento lot only found a record of his car after sifting through papers.

Biggs, 50, shared a video he took after learning his car was towed. The entire side of the block he parked on was missing winter parking ban signs. The closest sign on the next block was missing all of its text.

Asked about the parking ban law, Biggs said, “It needs to be gone. It should be for when it snows. Why would you enforce something when it’s not a hindrance to anybody?”

To check if your car was towed, head to chicagoshovels.org or call 311.

A map of streets affected by the ban can be found here.

A person waits for his vehicle at the Chicago Auto Pound at 701 N. Sacramento Ave. in Humboldt Park, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022.

A person waits for his vehicle at the Chicago Auto Pound on Sacramento Avenue in Humboldt Park on Thursday.

Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

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