Evanston police say 142 motorists found their cars towed away this morning after leaving them parked on major city streets during the overnight snow-route parking ban.

A snow plow on the road during Tuesday’s storm.

That’s about a normal number for a night when the snow parking ban is in effect, said Sgt. Tom Moore, who heads the department’s traffic unit.

But the ban caught some residents by surprise.

Edita Cosnotti, of 1940 Dodge Ave., says she and her husband recently moved to Evanston to be close to her parents who live here.

She says everybody on her block works, so plows had already cleared the street to the curb by the time residents came home last night.

She adds that with two noisy small children at home she didn’t hear the sirens when they sounded at 8:15 p.m., and apparently neither did her neighbors, because many of them ended up being towed.

She says that with both her car and her husband’s towed away it cost $370 to get them out of the tow yard at North Shore Towing — which she said was so full that tow truck drivers had starting leaving the overflow of vehicles in the Sam Club parking lot.

And she’s faced with $100 in tickets, which she planned to contest in the city’s administrative adjudication system this afternoon. 

Evanston’s public works director, Suzette Robinson, says that for residents living on snow routes, the key to not getting towed is to follow the instructions on the signs.

After a snowfall of more than two inches, parking is banned overnight, regardless of whether a particular block looks clear or not.

If residents want to find out whether the city will actually be towing cars, they can call the phone number on the sign — 847-864-7669 — to hear a recorded message indicating whether the parking ban is being enforced.

Residents can also listen for the sirens at 8:15 p.m., check the city’s website, sign up for the city newsletter to get an e-mail alert, follow the city’s tweets, friend the city on Facebook, listen to the city’s radio station (1650 AM), watch the city’s cable channel 16, or even look for a story here on Evanston Now.

Robinson says the city didn’t tow cars during the last big snowstorm because it happened over a holiday weekend and, with lighter traffic, the plows were able to clear the main routes more effectively.

Tuesday, though, while most driving surfaces were pretty good — just wet by the afternoon rush hour — parking lanes in many places were still covered with snow.

The city uses its largest trucks on the main streets, Robinson said, and they can’t bob and weave over to the curb when only a few spaces have opened up.

“The safest thing for them is to run straight down the street,” she said.

She says the decision to call for the parking ban was made about 3:30 Tuesday afternoon, about 90 minutes earlier than usual.

For the city to ban parking on side streets in the two days after a storm, the snowfall has to total at least four inches.

Robinson says it wasn’t clear last night whether the 4-inch mark had been reached — and if a certified snow report that isn’t received until a day or two after the storm doesn’t confirm the 4-inch depth, the city would have to refund any tickets issued.

That’s part of the reason the city chose to ask residents to voluntarily move their cars on side streets after this storm.

And Robinson said compliance with the voluntary plan is “pretty darn close” to what the city gets when it makes the rule mandatory and starts towing.

She added that the smaller trucks the city uses to plow the side streets are better able to cut in and out to plow most of the parking lane on a block if a few people don’t get the message and fail to move their cars.

Towing cars “is not a money-maker for us by any stretch of the imagination,” Robinson says, “and we as much as possible not to inconvenience residents.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Couldn’t Hear Sirens?

     I find it extremely hard to believe that ANYONE who lives in Evanston can’t hear the sirens when it snows.  The noise is particularly unbearable to me.  

    Also, the signs are as plain as the nose on you face.

  2. Long time residents never heard the sirens

    My parents have lived in Evanston for 12 years and have never heard a siren, nor did they hear it last night when just called them to ask about this. I practically grew up in Evanston, went and graduated from ETHS and have never heard the sirens myself either. I am so glad I moved away from this maddness! So please Miss Can’t Believe ask any of the 142 that are out of $225 today, which probably didn’t even have to spare, how much they wished they had heard the siren last night.

    1. Are your parents also not

      Are your parents also not able to check the internet, receive email, listen to the radio, or watch television? There are ways of getting this information other than hearing the sirens, as noted in the story.

      Here’s a good rule of thumb for people: if it snows more than just a dusting then you should probably check to see if the snow parking restrictions are in effect. It’s really not that hard.

      1. This lovely city ;-(

        Funny,  I never heard the siren either.  I signed up for the email and have receiced them in the past (didn’t get one this time) I called the Snow line repeatedly throughtout the evening 328-0222 and the recording kept saying "there is No snow ban in effect". I have lived here for over 40 years and I know Evanston (and I hate this "new" Evanston), I put all 3 of my cars in my garage <ya know, just in case>. See,  I was ticketed and towed December 2008 at 5:58am & 5:59am (the ban ends at 6:00am). The snow started during the night and YES I was wrong for being parked on a snow route. BUT you think they could have waited the 2 mins and not ticketed and towed both my cars.  EVANSTON AT ITS FINEST!  I CAN’T WAIT TO RELOCATE.

  3. Wow $33,370 of “not a money-maker”

     Let’s do a math break down on this on this “not a money making business,” 142 cars times $185 equals to $26,270.00 in towing fees (wonder how that’s split between North Shore Towing and City of Evanston) and additional $7,100.00 in tickets revenue, all together the 142 Evanstonians are out of $33,370.00 while sleeping, thinking they are safe and comfortable in their own homes. On which by the way they pay hefty property tax tags, and don’t forget just forked over $75.00 for a city stickers for their cars. Wow! What a Happy New Year so far, only 12 days into it!!!!?

  4.  The real reason behind this

     The real reason behind this craziness on a very light snow night is self-explanatory after reading the information on contract for snow towing, http://www.cityofevanston.org/transparency/contracts/

    The city has 4 months contract with snow towing company (being North Shore Towing) costing them $75,000 in expenditures. They missed a huge opportunity to recoup some of that money in revenue during the previous snow fall, with more than a 3rd of contract time elapsed they decided to jump on this opportunity.  I still don’t understand the reason they didn’t do anything 2 weeks when they had every right to and people wouldn’t have been so shocked.  Comparing the two complete opposite approaches, doing nothing or going to extreme, City of Evanston really needs to get it together on the snow issue. They should have gradually eased the residents into this, by not doing anything two weeks ago, with so much snow and all of the sudden they were ticking and towing on such a light snow night people are confused. They could have ticked people to warn them about the snow route they didn’t know about because they just moved into the area.

    1. Contract database

      It’s a shame that — as far as I can tell — one can’t find the full contract by looking in the city’s new contract database. You only seem to get a one-line summary.

      But as I read the summary, contrary to what you say, the contract listed with North Shore Towing is for 12 months and for $54,000.

      — Bill

  5. So of I read this correctly,

    So of I read this correctly, the city wasn’t sure if 4 inches of snow had fallen, and the streets were in good shape, but they decided to go ahead with the parking ban anyway.  And, as a result, 142 car owners now have lighter wallets to the tune of nearly $70,000.  As I commented earlier, a good number of these cars were on Ridge, where the streets were clear to the curb.  Seems like a large error in judgment to me.

    But fear not, tow victims: If it turns out that there was less than 4" of snow, the city will refund your ticket and you’ll get $100 back.  And I am sure that North Shore will also be more than happy to refund the $370 they managed to get from everyone who made their way down to Oakton St. this morning to retrieve their car. 

    By the way, does anyone know how the tow fee North Shore charges was arrived at?  Was this something that was negotiated with the city?  Did any other towing companies try to get the contract?  I had my car towed from Lincoln Park to Glenview last year after an accident by a Chicago toe firm, and the total bill was a bit more than $100.  How can North Shore (and the city) justify a $370 fee for a local tow that takes 15-20 minutes from hook to drop-off at the yard?  By my calculations, 142 cars towed at $370 each equals over $52,000 to North Shore Towing for a few hours of towing.  Nice work if you can get it…

    1. Tow fees

      What the reader quoted in the story said, and what the story reported, was that it cost $370 to get her family’s two cars released from the tow yard. That presumably included storage as well as towing fees for both vehicles.

      You can find the city’s current contract with North Shore Towing, including rates, with an explanation by city staff of the rationales for them, online here.

      — Bill

      1. Is Dick Chaney running Evanston?

        I thought this was a progressive town when I moved here, but I realized the town is full of crony capitalist neocons after reading this line in the tow contract, "Due to the drastic reduction of towed vehicles, in part to the elimination of street cleaning relocations, estimated revenues based on volume averages for years prior to April 2007 have adversely affected North Shore’s bottom line."

  6. I drove down almost all of

    I drove down almost all of the major streets in Evanston on Tuesday–Ridge, Asbury, Oakton, etc., and also occasionally looked out the window of my top floor highrise office window overlooking downtown Evanston during the day.  I did not see one single snowplow the entire day.  I can see the police and fire department from my window–those streets were not plowed, nor were any other streets in downtown Evanston.  At 8:15 p.m. I was driving down a side street–Hinman Avenue–and actually saw one truck plowing parking spaces and that’s when the siren went off.  When I lived in a city to the west of here, a truck would already be plowing my alley when I was still in bed in the morning.  What is the deal with plowing in Evanston?  Why can’t even the major streets be plowed at least once while the snow is actually falling, the dangerous time for driving.  Why do we have to wait until three or four days later to have the streets plowed?

    1. Drive the streets more often

      I live on Asbury and can attest to the fact that plows do go up and down this particular street on a consistent basis when there is heavy snowfall, as was the case this past week.

      Just because you drove down a section of Asbury at a specific time and didn’t see any plows does not mean you have seen the entirety of the day/night operation and when the plows may be servicing a street.

      Anyone that has live in a cold weather climate more than a month knows full well the parking restrictions during heavy snowfall. Rules are generally the same in most medium/large communities in the North.

      And the people that are complaining about a lack of City service are the same people who are the first to rally the cry for cutting services to save money in tight financial times.

      You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

      Or maybe you’re just obsessed with complaining about any topic that is posted here?

  7. We can complain, or….

    The sirens went off, I received emails from the city AND the info was posted on this site. Not to mention the signs posted all over the city. This is just another issue for people to complain about. If everyone followed the rules and moved their cars, North Shore Towing would have made $0.00.  Who cares what type of deal there is with North Shore, I’m sure it’s perfectly legal. Move your car when it needs moved. Also, there is a volunteer program for people to help the elderly or people who can’t do it themselves shovel their driveways and sidewalks. Instead of complaining, sign up to volunteer or to get help if you need it. I’m sure the volunteers wouldn’t mind moving the car across the street for you.
  8. Blame everyone else …. As Usual!

    Come on people!!!! As a life-long resident of Evanston, I can attest that the sirens can be heard anywhere in town .. There are also emails, a  website, a phone number to call to check if there is a snow clearing event. There are also NUMEROUS signs posted on EVERY snow route …. Common sense would say if it has been snowing ALL DAY, there may be some sort of clearing efforts on tap … So if you can’t bother to check the web, email, phone number then pay the fine and tow fee (which by the way 100% goes to Northshore) and move on …. By the way, the argument that the street was plowed doesn’t work either …. the sign say "NO PARKING" 11pm – 6am … The sign it not that confusing … the sign says don’t park during these hours if there is more than 2 inches …. it says nothing about whether the streets are plowed or not!

    Another point that needs to be made it that the city used to blow the sirens multiple times during the evening when there was a snow emergency, but they got too many complaints about the noise so they cut it down … Guess no one will ever be happy with what the city does or accept the fact THEY screwed up …. It’s just easier to blame everybody else than take personal responsibility ….

  9. Does City of Evanston Plow the Snow at Back Alleys?

    Or do they only plow the streets? Our street have an alley at the back of our houses, where the garages are located.  Does the city plow the alley? Or are we responsible for it ourselves?

    We just moved to Evanston and live near Grant and Pioneer. We appreciate any information.  

  10. Where does it say on the side
    Where does it say on the side streets they will tow and plow and return your car? The $ for parking in snow route is $60. And jumps to $150 if they tow your car, plow, and then return your car. I understand if it is on a main street that says tow zone, but how are they legally allowed to tow (and possibly damage) your car just to plow, with no signs? BTW, I do not live in Evanston, so do not know about sirens or email notifications. I read the sign that said no parking after 4 inches for 2 days. Being that I do not live there, I assumed it was okay because there was not that much snow on the ground, and many cars were parked on both sides of the street. It’s unfortunate my tickets was more than doubled than just a snow route ticket. It certainly influenced me to not come to Evanston to dine or go shopping anymore till spring. All that tax $ I have and WOULD have spent in Evanston businesses is now going for an outrageous parking ticket

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