Residents hoping to spend the holiday weekend at a Chicago beach found themselves with an unpleasant surprise when they went to park at the beaches’ adjacent lots: All lakefront locations charged a $30 flat rate to park, no matter how long the visit.
Rates for beach parking are typically much cheaper, often one-fifth of the $30 price tag for up to four hours. But according to signage at the meters, the flat-rate parking fees applied from July 3 to July 5.
For example, a typical day at 49th Street Beach — one of the locations seeing the higher prices, according to one Twitter user — would typically cost a driver $6 for four hours.
According to Michele Lemons, a spokesperson for the Chicago Park District, the price change is normal. “Similar to other parking lots across the city, the Chicago Park District imposes holiday rates along the lakefront over the Fourth of July weekend,” she said.
Lemons said the city began imposing the surge prices in 2018 for holidays and special events.
Twitter user @AlexiosAsText posted a photo of a sign at a meter at Oakwood Beach, and his tweet received thousands of interactions. “Chicago, keeping poor folks off the beaches for 100 years,” the tweet read.
The addition of metered parking to beaches in the same areas as the holiday surge pricing has provoked outrage from residents in recent months, with opponents of the metered plan arguing it would have a negative effect on lower-income residents.
The hike in prices surprised residents such as Marni Niffen, who went to Loyola Beach to celebrate the holiday Sunday with her husband and two children.
After arriving a little after 9:30 a.m., they discovered the parking lot was full. After waiting for a car to leave, Niffen and her husband discovered the price they’d have to pay for the few hours they would spend at the beach.
“I think that is outrageous. ... When it’s the free option for people to cool off. When lots of people are still economically hurting and recovering with the pandemic, and loss of jobs. (It’s) making the beach a resource harder to get to. We don’t live close by public transportation to get to the beach,” she said.
Niffen and her family left the lot to look for parking elsewhere. Niffen, who has spent her adult life in Chicago, did not recall seeing these kinds of charges before.
Daniela, who did not provide her last name, went to Loyola Beach on Monday to walk her dog, not expecting to see the surge pricing.
While at first she was surprised, Daniela said she understood the pricing when she looked at the beach.
“I’m not mad at it ... the park is left in disarray. People are disgusting, they left ... beer bottles, cases of beer bottles, people’s diapers were left out. It’s just disgusting, and so for people to be there all day, and that’s what the intention is right? ... (The price) didn’t bother me,” she said.
Niffen said she’s seen surge pricing in the Lakeview neighborhood during Chicago Cubs games but nothing as expensive as what is being charged at beach lots.
“It makes wanting to go to ... a restaurant around there ... less attractive,” Niffen said of the surge pricing on game days. “But it’s not 30 bucks. To me that’s cost prohibitive. Whether you can afford it or not, that’s just an unnecessary profit grab.”