A parents’ guide to Chicago’s parking meters

Gone are the simple days of finding a parking spot next to a meter, dropping in some quarters and heading on your merry way. Clearly, those who designed the new parking system did not have young kids. Here comes Families in the Loop to the rescue, with a few clever tips to keep you cool, calm, and collected during your parking (mis)adventures.

1. Teach Patience

Leave your children in the car – yes, even if they are screaming – while you run down the block. Then wait (and wait, wait, wait) until the receipt finally prints out, while keeping an eye on your car to make sure: a) no one’s jumped into it; and, b) that the kids are not crying to the point where their faces turn purple. Receipt in hand, sprint back to the car, calm your children, and let them know you didn’t completely forget about them. Repeat each time you need to park anywhere in the city, from Starbucks to the dry cleaner, doctor’s office to the gym, school to the diner.

2. Enjoy the outdoors

If the first option seems too traumatic for the kids, try taking them with you to fill the parking meter (note that the meter location is, without fail, at least one-half of a block away from the only spot available). Keep in mind that for at least six months of the year, you will be buffeted by snow, rain and gusting wind, so hold those little mittened hands and the Graco car seat with your newborn in it tightly! While you frantically search for your credit card or spare change, simply place your screaming child(ren) on the ground. It might be colder down there, but at least your hands will be free. When the receipt finally prints, trudge back down the street with the now hypothermic kids to place the ticket on your dashboard. Then proceed into the store for your two-minute errand.

3. Spend, spend, spend

Listen, Chicago parents, city life is tough. On us and on our wallets. And street parking is no exception: $5 an hour to park in the Loop and $3 in other districts. Make sure to wear a coat with big pockets, because that’s 40 quarters for just two hours. But, brighten up: finding a spot has become a whole lot easier, because it’s way too pricey for most of us!

4. Never take a day off

Chicago parking meters are kind of like parenting – you never get a day off. You’re doubting us? Try going for Chinese food on Christmas Day, and the city will give you a special present – a parking ticket!

This concludes our Chicago Parking Parenting Lesson for the week. Good luck, parents, and don’t forget those quarters!

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