CHICAGO (CBS) — Aldermen have a busy day ahead at today’s City Council meeting, with votes set on changes to the controversial parking meter deal, new fines for cyclists and drivers, and additional night games at Wrigley Field.
CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports aldermen are expected to give final approval to the Emanuel administrations proposed changes to the 75-year parking meter lease deal, including free Sunday parking in the neighborhoods and extended hours at most meters the rest of the week.
The Finance Committee has signed off on the changes, which were negotiated with the parking meter firm, in what Mayor Rahm Emanuel has termed an effort to “make a little lemonade out of a big lemon.”
The parking meter firm agreed to allow motorists to park for free in the neighborhoods in exchange for longer hours at most other meters. Meters that now must be fed until 9 p.m. would have to be fed until 10 p.m., except in Streeterville and River North, where they would have to be fed until midnight. Meters that must be fed until 6 p.m. would not be affected.
The city and the parking meter firm also have settled a dispute over lost parking revenue from street closures and free parking for motorists with disabled parking placards, after an audit ordered by the mayor found the parking meter firm had been overbilling the city by $20 million a year. The firm has agreed to allow the city to calculate how much it must reimburse the company for lost revenue from street closures and disabled parking, rather than relying on the company’s estimates.
Aldermen also were expected to vote on a number of changes to the city’s bike ordinance, including steeper fines for cyclists who violate traffic laws, or anyone who opens a car door in the path of a cyclist.
Under the mayor’s plan, the fine when cyclists disobey traffic laws would go from a flat $25 to a range of $50 to $200, depending on the violation. The mayor’s proposal would also double the fine for “dooring” cyclists – by opening a vehicle door into their path – to $1,000. The fine would also double, to $300, for anyone who leaves a car door open in traffic.
The mayor’s plan also would give cyclists more leeway on city streets, by allowing them to ride in the main roadway – rather than hugging the curb – if they are keeping up with vehicle traffic, even if there’s a bike path on the street.
Adult cyclists also could use the sidewalks to enter the nearest road or bike path, or enter a designated bike station. Previously, only cyclists under the age of 12 could ride on the sidewalk.
Buses that use shared bike lanes would be able to leave that lane to get around slower cyclists.
The council also will take its first vote on proposed changes at Wrigley Field, tied to the Cubs plan to renovate the landmark stadium.
A committee has signed off on the team’s request to increase the number of night games each year from 30 to 46. The team also would be allowed to play six 3:05 p.m. games on Fridays and Wrigley could host four concerts a year.
In exchange, the Cubs would have to pay for the extra security and cleanup costs, and give up one night game after any season when Wrigley hosts more than four non-baseball events – such as concerts, or college football games.
The additional night games are just one part of the team’s massive plan to overhaul Wrigley Field. The $500 million plan would allow the Cubs to build a 6,000-square-foot video screen in left field, an 800-square-foot see-through sign in right field, a new hotel across the street, and an adjacent office building. The team would also make major repairs to the aging ballpark’s deteriorating concrete, and upgrade the concourse with new amenities.
The renovations to Wrigley must face a separate vote by several different bodies, including the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and the Chicago Plan Commission.