One of the last free public parking lots along the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago will see parking meters go into action on Thursday, as city officials look for additional funds to help close budget gaps.
The action, agreed to in Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s last budget, has encountered criticism, as park-goers say it will reduce accessibility for the public at Chicago’s Montrose Harbor.
“The meters come on tomorrow, and we’re disappointed to see that,” Greg Hipp, executive director of the Chicago Area Runners Association, said. “The average person who comes to the park twice a month, it is going to cost them $300 a year.”
The association is one of several groups in the city that protested the change, with members even circulating a petition that got more than 12,000 signatures.
Get Chicago local news, weather forecasts, sports and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Chicago newsletters.
Even though some groups opposed the change, some residents were in favor of it, saying that it might lessen traffic and promote public transportation.
“When we discourage driving and parking, it really makes the city cleaner and safer in a lot of ways,” Lakeview East resident Dylan Manley said. “Discouraging driving is an important step, but what I’m really hoping to see if the city and CTA stepping up with more bus service and bike lanes going toward that direction.”
There is still free parking at some places in the Montrose Harbor area, but Chicago residents will see meters near two popular spots, with the devices going up near the dog beach and bird sanctuary.
“We know the mayor is faced with all wrong decisions these days, but limiting people’s access to the park is never the right decision,” Hipp said.
The city has also added new parking meters to several busy streets in Lincoln Park. Officials hope that the new meters will generate millions in new revenue for the city in coming years.