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On-Street Parking Payments During COVID-19

By June 27, 2020 March 4th, 2021 No Comments

With the continued and ever-growing threat of COVID-19 in major cities across the world, parking regulators in both the United States and Europe have taken very different approaches in enforcing parking regulations in order to assist residents in mitigating some of the daily hazards associated with the disease. In some cities, parking regulations have remained unchanged, while in other cities, regulators have decided to decrease, or even eliminate, parking payments altogether.

In this blog entry, we will look at (3) different cities: Chicago (Illinois, USA), San Francisco (California, USA) and Lisbon (Portugal). Each city has very different populations as well as a different number of vehicles registered within the city.

Chicago (Illinois, USA)

With a population of 2.7 million people, it has been estimated that there are typically 1.3 million vehicle registration stickers sold in the City of Chicago annually. This means there are 0.48 vehicles for every resident. Despite the Governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, issuing a “stay-at-home order” for the entire State of Illinois due to COVID-19, the City of Chicago made a conscious decision to continue on-street parking payments without issuing any discount or protection from parking fines due to non-payment. The only fines suspended from enforcement were: city stickers, expired plates, street sweeping and residential parking permits. A possible reason for the continued enforcement of parking payments may be related to the 2008 lease of Chicago’s parking meters for 75 years by Parking Meters LLC (a venture by Morgan Stanley, Alliance Capital Partners and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority).

San Francisco (California, USA)

San Francisco Parking Meter

With a population of 881 thousand people, it has been estimated that there are 1 million vehicles registered in the City of San Francisco. This means there are 1.14 vehicles for every resident. As of June 25th, 2020, California has seen an increase of 32% in hospitalizations over the last 14 days due to COVID-19. Furthermore, the State of California has seen the 2nd highest number of COVID-19 cases (190,222 as of June 25th), only second to New York City (215,192 as of June 25th). While San Francisco decided to enforce parking payments in the city (similar to Chicago), they decided to temporarily do so at the reduced base rate. With over 1 vehicle per inhabitant, it is understandable that the City of San Francisco wanted to still reduce the amount of parking congestion in commercial and residential areas that typically require payment. Even with the temporary reduction of parking payments in the City of San Francisco, Parknav determined the amount of parking congestion decreased throughout the city (see previous Parknav Blog entry, “How COVID-19 Affects Parking Congestion”).

Lisbon (Portugal)

Lisbon Parking Meter

With a population of 505 thousand people, it has been estimated that there are 230 thousand vehicles based inside the City of Lisbon. This means there is 0.46 vehicles for every resident. Unlike both Chicago and San Francisco, the City of Lisbon’s parking authority (Empresa Municipal de Mobilidade e Estacionamento de Lisboa, known as “EMEL”) previously decided to temporarily suspend all parking payments to help mitigate the hazards of COVID-19. While payments have now returned, the city is still applying parking exemptions to those in the healthcare profession until December 31st, 2020.

As cities begin to reopen (and potentially close, again), it will be interesting to see how they adapt and/or modify their parking restrictions in order to accommodate the needs of their citizens during this unprecedented pandemic. We at Parknav are always monitoring these situations to ensure we provide the most accurate and up-to-date on-street/off-street static/dynamic parking information and will continue to periodically provide updates via our Parknav blog.


Written by Jeremy Leval

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