Best Kept Secret: Champaign-Urbana Parking Key

By Amy Hatch

A Parking Meter Key is a CU Essential.

Don’t get caught without money for the meter! Photo Credit: morgueFile.By Amy L. Hatch

Our first week in Champaign-Urbana, Emmie and I were looking for something to do and so we decided to try out the Urbana Free Library.

So we pull into the parking lot and lo and behold, it’s filled with meters. Yes, parking meters. Who would’ve thunk it? Not me. So there I was, with my toddler and no quarters. Parenting FAIL!

Or should I say, parking FAIL!

One afternoon whiledriving around for business, I got two tickets at once. Two! One for the meter and one for — get this — parking more than 12 inches from the curb.

I finally put a stop to the parking madness. I took my parking scofflaw self to the Urbana City Building on Vine Street and bought a parking key.

Every meter in Urbana, Champaign and on the University of Illinois campus can be fed using this handy little piece of plastic and metal. Bye-bye, giant rolls of quarters! Bye-bye, hunting for change on the filthy floor of my mini-van!


The key itself is $19.50. Then, you can put as much or as little cash on the key for each kind of meter. Next time you park, stick the key in the small hole on the front of the meter and viola! Stick a fork in you, you’re done.

These keys are super-handy. Every city should have one. And so should every mom who ever got Cheerios stuck to her knees while scrounging for that one last nickel on the floor of the car.

Editor’s Note: The cost for using a University of Illinois parking meter goes up to $1 per hour starting July 1, even more of a reason to get a parking key. Parking meter rates vary by the area in Champaign, here is information from the City of Champaign (scroll down) and here is the scoop on meters from the City of Urbana.

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  1. Parking is always free at the Champaign library.

    If your husband is parking on campus every day perhaps he should get a parking permit. Surely less expensive than paying meters.

    As a student, I parked incredibly cheaply at E-14 and took the shuttle bus (free) which runs every 5 minutes. Better for the environment to use mass transit as well.

  2. Jacqueline says:

    I can see where these could be useful for folks who go to metered areas all the time, but for me paying $20 for the right to give the cities money to allow me to park and support their businesses feels ridiculous. I have a hard time seeing why the key should cost $20. And $1 hour for parking in campus is now the final nail in the coffin of me going to campus at all, that’s just nuts. Time for me to get even more serious about just patronizing businesses in walking distance of my home, good for the nearby economy and good for my health!

  3. The solution for me to to avoid Urbana. Their parking policies are ridiculous, and as much as I love some of the businesses there, it’s not worth fighting the Urbana government over. I’ll have to stick to Champaign, where they actually seem to encourage visitors!