Police tow 142 cars for snow route violations

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."

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