Snow forces city to tow some students’ cars

Ani Ajith

Burgwell Howard remembers waking up a few years ago to the sound of tow trucks outside his house. Fortunately for Northwestern’s dean of students, his car was in the clear. But several NU students living across the street weren’t so lucky that morning.

Wednesday morning, the day after the city of Evanston activated snow emergency parking restrictions for the first time this year, several off-campus students woke to a similar fate.

Patrick Sheeran, Evanston’s streets and sanitation superintendent, said that many of the more than 100 cars that were towed away as snowplows cleared streets Wednesday morning belonged to NU students.

“In general, it is more commonplace for there to be more cars towed away on streets closer (to NU),” Sheeran said.

It was the second time this winter the city had announced snow emergency parking restrictions.

While Howard said he hasn’t received any complaints from students related to towing, he was aware of “plenty of grousing on Facebook this morning.”

Towing and ticketing only occurred on snow routes covered by a parking ban that was in effect late Tuesday night until early Wednesday morning. Emergency sirens sounded Tuesday at 8:15 p.m. to remind residents to move cars off snow routes, which are marked by red, white and blue signs. The city’s snow routes are usually along main and heavily-trafficked thoroughfares.

The fine for violating the snow route parking ban is $50, in addition to towing and storage fees.

The city also asked residents to follow parking restrictions on side streets by parking on the odd side of residential streets on Wednesday and on the even side today. Each side of residential streets is marked by an odd or even number on a sign. The city will not enforce restrictions on residential streets with ticketing and towing.

Sheeran said the compliance with the parking ban on major roads and the voluntary restrictions on side streets was at a level comparable to past years. The no-enforcement policy on residential streets has been in place for the “last couple of years.”

The city last put the non-enforced parking restrictions in place over Christmas weekend, when city officials determined it would be unfair and ineffective to declare a snow emergency parking ban when many cars parked on the roads belonged either to non-resident visitors or to residents who were out of town, Sheeran said.

Snow emergency parking guidelines are announced the night before plows clear streets through AM 1650, Cable Chanznel 16 and the city’s website, blog and social media accounts. Residents can also call (847) 864-SNOW and sign up for e-mail alerts online.

Sheeran said the full-spectrum broadcast of emergency parking rules still doesn’t achieve “full saturation,” as there is “always a number of people who are unaware of what the siren means, for example.”

Howard, though, knew exactly what the sirens meant.

“When I heard the sirens, I went out and made sure my car was parked right,” he said. “I think the city has worked really hard to make sure residents don’t find themselves in this situation.”

Off-campus students were reminded of city snow emergency parking policies in an e-mail message sent from Howard’s office last week over the off-campus listserv; Howard again reminded students on Wednesday to follow city updates on Twitter or Facebook, especially if they couldn’t hear the sirens.

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