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Jan. 26 2010 - 8:27 am | 3,626 views | 1 recommendation | 71 comments

On Chicago’s Parking Meters

Mayor Richard Daley is pitching the idea of one get-out-of-a-ticket-free card per year for drivers who slightly overstay their welcome at Chicago parking meters.

If aldermen go along, drivers would be able to successfully fight one ticket per car each year if the penalty is handed out within five minutes of the meter or pay ticket running out.

It’s part of the mayor’s attempt to placate the public after an unpopular lease of the city’s parking meters led to steep rate hikes and broken machines. Much of the one-time windfall is being used to prop up the city budget.

via Chicago parking meters: Daley offers drivers a break – chicagotribune.com.

Any Chicago residents out there with some strong opinions on the parking meter issue? If so, I’d like to hear from you.

I’m also interested in hearing from people in Nashville or in any other city that is planning to sell off part of its infrastructure to help pay off the budget.

Apologize for the sporadic posting of late. I’m in the middle of a move.


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  1. collapse expand

    Hey Matt,

    I’m an Ann Arbor Resident and I can attest to how Detroit and Ann Arbor have been privatizing parts of their infrastructure, not only to ameliorate broken budgets, but also just to increase revenue streams. It seems to be a solution people are turning to even in non-dire circumstances.

    But, on the dire side. The Highland Park (northern Detroit) Municipal government has privatized the water of the residents there. This is the poorest area of Detroit. They sold it to a subsidiary of Coca-cola, who then decided they needed to charge 1800 to 3600 per annum to the poorest residents in Michigan. This was hailed as a way to get the city out of debt. By denying people who are within view of the largest freshwater source in the world access to water.

    David Brooks would probably extol the virtues of this program to help out the progress-resistant Detroit culture.

    God help us if we have an earthquake.

    Link here: http://www.alternet.org/blogs/water/80536/

    • collapse expand

      This selling off of water business is so incredibly frightening. We need to go back to the idea of a ‘commons’, that certain assets belong to everyone and shouldn’t be put into the market. I understand that water purification/treatment costs money, but purification/treatment is too important to put in the hands of for profit corporations, who routinely put profits ahead of community. The government should do it.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        I frequently service equipment at the other end of the flow; wastewater plants. I have seen several privitized operations, and my observation is that they are THE worst maintained and operated facilities. And speaking the plant managers; the #1 priority is profit.
        I agree 100%; privitizing water treatment is a scary thought.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      I’m a Chicago resident and Daley’s deal is as reassuring as a pedophile offering a discount on babysitting. Are we supposed to be grateful? Daley is Chicago’s Gollum. His power lust has siphoned every drop of public trust. However, he will continue to be elected because those who are most heavily taxed by him are the ones who will be living in the suburbs in five years. The money could care less about the long term future of the city. But the real problem is the entitled and highly corrupt city council. Daley assumes the blame for much of their deceit and mismanagement. Unfortunately he will always lack the moral authority to do anything about it.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    They say California is the trend setter state. Look for a lot of wagon hitching and copy cat proposals like Arny ( I raised a million on da Ebayze for dealing with the budget and all these kinds of things) Schwartz’s plan to cut costs in correctional officers’ pay, benefits and pensions by simply privatizing the state prison system and moving it to Mexico. Call it the NAFTA end game.

    There will also be a massive increase in shit like this.

    http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/blog/louis-dettorre/petas-risque-offer-vallejo-bikini-ads-police-cars

    Does anyone know how long it’s going to take for L.A. County to go chapter 11? I’m having trouble getting a real estimate.

  3. collapse expand

    If you want a comprehensive primer on the whole parking meter clusterfuck from beginning to end, check out the Chicago Reader’s three-part piece:

    http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/fail-parking-meters-lease-deal/Content?oid=1098561

  4. collapse expand

    I’m a Chicago resident, and when I heard of the one-per-year “get out of jail free card”, I laughed. One per year? Are you kidding me?

    That man sold the parking meters for less than they were even worth in the first place in a political deal. He shoved it through city council, just like he shoves every single other behind-the-scenes business deal he does.

    Parking costs went through the roof at the same time that we got new meters that break every time it gets below 20 degrees, which – I shouldn’t have to tell anyone – is pretty often in Chicago.

    When I heard about the 5 minute grace period, I thought it was for every day. Like you always got five minutes before you were slapped with a giant parking ticket. But once a year? Are you kidding me?

    So, after paying an arm and a leg for parking and being five minutes late, I can take a day off of work and go down to fight the ticket once a year? That doesn’t even begin to appease me. In fact, it angers me even more.

  5. collapse expand

    Matt,

    You’re probably already familiar with the details, but to be brief – the Chicago deal is a disaster. Daley slipped the deal through with very little debate and leased the meters for 75 years for 1.2 billion. The private company has had plenty of problems so far – failing to properly update the meters to the new rates; meters filling too quickly due to the higher rates; etc.

    For me, the more pressing issue is the financial side of the deal. Chicago sold its meters for 75 years. That means no revenue stream for 75 years! So, we better make that 1.2 billion last, right? Well, 1 year into the deal and Daley has already raided what he termed a “rainy day fund” to the tune of $270 million. The fund was to appease the public skepticism and to collect interest in a long-term reserve fund to offset the nearly $20 million in annual lost city parking revenue. But less than a year later, Daley withdrew $270 million from the fund to help balance the city budget. We Chicagoans are F’ed for the next 70 years or so, but then it won’t be Daley in office anymore who has to deal with the budget anymore.

    An issue with I think gets very little air time is the the meters were purchased by Morgan Stanley, about the same time they were receiving TARP funds. So, taxpayers essentially gave MS money to buy our public asset and then we allowed them to double rates overnight (and again this month) so they could collect more money from us.

    The only benefit I have seen is that, due to the rate increases, is that you can actually find spots to park in the city now.

  6. collapse expand

    Given how easy it is to disable a parking meter I expect the incidents of dissent via vandalism to increase.

  7. collapse expand

    Matt, EVERYONE in Chicago has a strong opinion on the parking meter deal–all negative. A 75-year lease for $600 million, was rammed through the City Council literally in one day, and now almost all that money is being used to balance the budget for next year. In the meantime, the rates went up on every meter in the city, and some analysts have said the revenue stream will be at least twice what the lease went for.

    It really hits people where they live, and the mayor for the moment is trying to appease people. You’d think he’d be a little snakebit about the idea.

    Yet now the talks to privatize Midway Airport have reopened, and there’s even talk about privatizing the water service. There’s a poll in this morning’s Tribune that shows 72% of Illinois Democratic voters and 65% of Republican voters would be against privatizing the rest of our tollway system.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chicago/ct-met-0126-tollway-poll-20100125,0,6256936.story

    It’s starting to feel we’re not citizens anymore, but only tenants.

    • collapse expand

      Not all negative, James. As a Chicago bicyclist and CTA rider, I think it’s brilliant. If you don’t like the parking rates, get rid of your cars. The city will be safer, quieter, cleaner without them.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        As another Chicago bicyclist, I actually think this is horrible for bikers. Essentially overnight, bikers lost thousands of parking meters that used to be excellent places to lock your bike up to. It’s unlikely that the City will be able to spend any money on new bike racks to replace all of these parking meters that have been removed. This is incredibly frustrating. Bad for motorists AND bikers.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  8. collapse expand

    Los Angeles City is doing a ‘Chicago’ and selling parking assets.

    http://www.nbclosangeles.com/around-town/cars/For-Sale-Six-Garages-41000-Parking-Meters.html

    Maybe looking into the contractor/bid process might be interesting stuff? No doubt it is rife with corruption passing as ‘relationships.’

    • collapse expand

      More info, the parent LLC, Chicago Parking Meter LLC is made up of Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Investors, Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners (all listed as NY,NY entities) and Deeside Investments, Inc. of Washington DC.

      You can dig that up at Illinois’ Secretary of State’s site.

      Deeside is a Delaware corporation, no further information is freely available. I bet there are some interesting parties involved in Deeside Investment, Inc.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  9. collapse expand

    Chicago resident here.

    My input:

    Everyone here knows that the slush, excuse me, emergency fund was actually the Mayor’s “secret” war chest for his masturbatory fantasy of hosting the Olympics.

    The reliable old school insert quarter-turn-crank style of meters (and in some cases brand spanking new two-spots-per, press the button style meters) were replaced by the single box with a printer. The print receipts are made with the heat sensitive paper (the same that is favored by retailers) that fades over time. I would wonder if they would even be readable by the time a court date rolls around.

    The other terrible thing about the printers is that they eliminate “parking karma”, though I’ve seen some people tape their parking tickets to the box if they have time left.

    Matt, you might want to talk w/ The Parking Geek @ The Expired Meter –he’s an authority on all things Chicago parking.

  10. collapse expand

    PPP’s are often worthwhile but not a panacea. Just saying “privatize it” misses the point- it’s the govts job to get the best value for the taxpayer, not to get the best deal for their friends. That means not just the best price but stipulations as to quality and the prices they can charge. Obviously the more limitations on price increases the lower the bid will be but these are the things that should be weighed in as public a forum as possible.

    As far as the 5-minute thing…I live in NYC and the public traffic cops are waiting at the cars before the time is up so they can write the ticket as soon as the time expires. It REALLY pissed you off but you learn to get back 5 minutes early.

    I really hope we auction off our crappy airports and roads in a sensible manner with a completely public forum. I see how well these PPP’s can work in other parts of the world (and sometimes how poorly they can work with bad execution). But it’s hard to imagine our infrastructure can be crappier than it already is.

  11. collapse expand

    it’s about damn time the actual cost of parking, as opposed to the subsidized cost, got tossed out there. it’s absurd that in a city like chicago with a decent public transport infrastructure parking has been so cheap. that cheapness isn’t magic–it’s taxpayers making a choice, whether they know it or not, to help keep a suburban lifestyle going.

    with the price of parking getting to actual non-subsidized levels, people will have to make hard choices about how they get to work, where they choose to live and so on. and those choices will lead to a better more livable urban space. maybe with the secret-we-aren’t-allowed-to-call-it-subsidized-parking gone people will put more money into parks or transport or anything else.

    • collapse expand

      Sure, but the city and its people should be benefiting from the rise in prices, not a group of private investors. The city could have raised the prices itself without selling off the streets. In fact, Daley could have sold monthly parking passes to raise revenue quickly and raised the overall rates for everyone, including occasional parkers, to both encourage people to use public transport and to raise revenue. Instead, he sold off an asset. It’s wrong.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        it doesn’t matter to me who benefits, as long as a hidden subsidy is removed. parking has negative consequences on urban livability. the need and desire by government in the form of building codes costs you as a chicago taxpayer a ton of money for something (the putting of the car culture on a huge pedestal) that you might not want if you knew the real costs–environmental, social, physical and so on.

        parking should cost 5 times as much. it would suck but it might make people in this country take their urban spaces more seriously.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
        • collapse expand

          Not so fast. In many cases, street parking actually has a beneficial effect on the cityscape. First, it has natural traffic calming effects: if you’ve only got two lanes of traffic moving on a typical two-way street, with parking on either side, cars move much more slowly than they do if there is no parking and four lanes of traffic, and provides a buffer between pedestrian and driver.
          But, you say, if there were no parking or even driving on these streets, they’d be much more pedestrian friendly, right? Wrong. Pedestrian “malls” – no cars allowed, buses only – were tried in a number of East Coast cities in the ’70’s & 80’s (Boston and Philly come to mind), but were a monumental bust, killing much of the business on major retail thoroughfares.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            That’s interesting because they tried the same thing in Chicago. I remember when State Street was a pedestrian-only road. It was devastating to downtown (higher crime, stores shut down) so it was reopened as a car-way.

            I’m all for less driving in the city in general, but since I actually pay taxes in the city of Chicago, I’d just assume my money go back into the city to help everyone, not just a handful of investment bankers.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
  12. collapse expand

    As a chicago dweller there are many issues I can have with our city government. However I think the parking issue is often glanced over without much real critical thought and is often only discussed in what seems to be anger. I think from an urban planning perspective the parking meter arrangement was a actually a pretty good idea. Although it was no doubt executed poorly. Rate hikes should have been put on the back burner and the actual machines took a long while to get up an running which was frustrating. I have a problem with Daily selling of the meters only to plug holes in a unsustainable budget. Its no doubt a waste of a very real asset. Also it should have been explicit that some of the funds go to mass transit.

    But have the other Chicago city dwellers forgotten how bad it was to park in and around the loop and other busy sections of town before the meters were sold off? There really was not much if any street parking available and traffic was increased by people aimlessly searching for a spot. Now it is remarkably easier to find parking. The loop has not turned into a parking lot but anybody can tell that it is easier to find a spot today then it ever was prior to the sale of the parking meters. I am sure there are some people that can appreciate that. Sure the cost of parking has gone up, but did you really think .25 an hour was a market rate? For a long time people who live in the city were subsidizing parking, largely for people that drove into work from the suburbs. Thus in turn eating away at the rider base for any public mass transit system. Maybe think about how cheap parking effected mass transit because they are directly related (more drivers= less riders = less service). You can weigh out the pros and cons on your own. Now that the parking meters are closer to market rate (but probably still under considering many private lots cost upwards of $25 per 9 hrs) it is just enough of an annoyance factor to encourage people to find other ways of traveling besides cars. Ideally some of these people will opt for the metra if they are from the burbs or some form of the CTA if they live in the city. Then we all benefit from the parking meters. People who need to drive can find spots but they have to pay near market rates for the spot. and everyone else will enjoy the increased services in the public mass transit due to increased revenue from more riders.

    at the end of the day chicago sold an asset for a lot of money in a competitive market, with at least 2 bidders. if the city was not so broke before the sale they could generate significant income off of that $$. Additionally the city no longer has to pay for and maintain/ manage the meters, thats worth real $ too. there are real problems with the sale of the meters but i think the over all point is being missed. As a chicago city dweller do you really want to make parking cheaper and more convenient? Don’t forget that there are unintended consequences to doing so.

  13. collapse expand

    Just a Chicagoan adding his 2 bits to say that the parking meter deal is a blowtorch flaming outrage and, yes, everyone here has a strong opinion on it. As others have, I recommend the Chicago Reader’s series on the subject as a primer.

  14. collapse expand

    Arizona is selling off government buildings and leasing them back. Usual short term view that actually increases costs over time. Brilliant. Instead of parking meters, some cities here and then the state invested in photo radar camera systems to generate revenue. Big fight to get rid of them now. Just a few years ago, in the “good times” Arizona had a “rainy day fund” setting aside money for times like this – the legislature couldn’t get rid of it fast enough. Of course, as the economy collapsed, they were too busy trying to pass legislation to allow people to carry guns everywhere – school campuses, sporting events, bars… apparently too much sun can damage the brain.

  15. collapse expand

    Dear Matt:

    First, I must admit I am a Parking Meter Truther…heh heh.
    As a lifelong Chicagoan and official “scofflaw” (it’s printed on my city file in big red letters — I’ve seen it), I have been persecuted by Mayor Boot all my driving days. There are lots of ways to criticize the parking meter deal. I don’t really care that meter rates went up because anything that encourages the use of public transportation and discourages traffic congestion is okay by me. The meter rates are still a steal (no pun intended) compared to garage or lot rates. But here’s the real stick up the ass: any time the city wants to modify the streets (widen them, put in new sewers, what have you), it creates a financial liability to the meter company that loses meter revenue as a result. So now, on top of the bond interest and other expenses to repair infrastructure, we’ve got to protect those MF’er’s profits.

    Our one hope? That the same sleazy ass corruption that allows this kind of deal to be made will allow the city to weasel out of the deal at a propitious time. Just wait until the meter rates are elevated to truly outrageous levels. Then the city will find a way to throw the private parking company out of the city after it takes all the heat for the increases.

    What might stop this turn would be some cognizance by the meter company that a sufficient slice of their revenues must be forever allocated to the city officials and aldermen for protection. However, seems to me that no matter what, at some point the revenue from the parking meters will again become a plum that the private companies can’t afford to keep– the cost of graft will simply outpace the profits.

    But then, I voted for Obama, so what do I know?

    • collapse expand

      The company obviously paid for the concession based on a certain number of streets under coverage. Obviously they write something in that says: “if you’re going to sell me the parking concession on this street you can’t then shut it down without compensating me.” This is just common business sense- I understand that you feel Chicago politicians negotiated a poor deal- you should direct your ire towards them or are you against all forms of business?

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Am I against all forms of business? WTF. Are you some kind of ideological twit who takes anything anyone says and extrapolates it to the most absurd extension you can reach? No, I’m not against “all forms of business.” Let me ask you: do you eat dog shit with a spoon or fork? Don’t lie, now.

        The point is that privatising the meters has hidden costs to the city that must be subtracted from the advantages. One of these is the new expenses added to infrastructure repairs– which are already so expensive they are not done when they should be. Your comment only explains that, yes, this is an inherent feature of privatization.

        Well, no shit, Sherlock. Is restating the obvious your only contribution to the world or do you count inserting incredibly stupid questions at the end as a contribution?

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  16. collapse expand

    Privatizing all the city and county services and utilities was what this rapid decline and rip-off of the middle class was all about.
    Once they get the counties in deep debt, they can swoop in and “buy up” all the utilities and RAISE RATES. yea
    Big corporations are having a field day in America, even the Supreme Court is playing ball with them.
    Counties have to fight back and establish laws that forbid privatization of anything the county owns…roads and bridges and rails will all be toll roads in no time otherwise.

  17. collapse expand

    I’m also solidly in the ‘this is insane’ category.

    But it’s also nothing new. Daley is the prototypical imperial American mayor.

    You want to see real corruption? Check out our school system. We’re talking a decade and a half of mass privatization – private outfits running public schools, “turnaround”, charter schools – with no discernable objective impact on test scores (the preferred metric) or drop-out and violence rates (slightly more out-there statistics).

    The parking meter fiasco is flavor-of-the-month scandal because it’s so blatantly stupid and arrogant. School reform is more subtle, and frankly, is less targeted at white people.

  18. collapse expand

    Matt-

    here in Milwaukee, ther have been two major privatization attempts made in the past year.

    The first happened when the City Council called for a “study” of a “proposal” to privatize the municipal water system- a 99 year lease, on remarkably similar terms to Chicago’s parking meter privatization deal. They carelessly called for this in open session, and recieved an earful from the public for their pains.

    The second is much quieter & more pernicious- Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, and Milwaukee’s Democratic mayor (and gubernatorial candidate) are calling for a mayoral takover of the public school system, in effect dismissing the publically elected school board, allegedly in order to become eligible for certain federal funds. It is slowly becoming apparent that the think tanks responsible for the idea are funded by the DLC, and certain hedge-fund exectutives. Clearly, covert preparations for public school privatization are underway. Milwaukee is already a leader in the school vouchers program, which is a great idea, if you don’t mind con-men pretending to educate children in sub-standard conditions, while sucking at the public teat. Or if you think that church-state separation business is a shameful impediment to taxpayer funded religious education.

    • collapse expand

      http://www.city-journal.org/2010/eon0122cs.html

      I’m in the camp that teachers unions are failing our kids. I think we need to try new solutions and charters work well. Well, not all the time but that’s the point- the crappy ones probably cant be any worse than the status quo and when they do a bad job they will be phased out.

      But like PPP’s this is not a panacea. Significant oversight of the process is required, preferably by people not captured by either the unions or the private entities.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Your link refers to NY. I dunno, maybe Teacher’s Unions are the problem there, I don’t know. They are in no way- let me repeat that- IN NO WAY the problem here. The problem here is that Milwaukee’s public schools are underfunded, and serve some very poor neighborhoods, with all the obvious, attendant problems. The idea that anybody can overcome those problems AND make a profit doing it seems ludricous on the face of it. The schools in our affluent (& Republican!) suburbs do a very nice job delivering public education- of course, those districts are very well funded, and the students don’t generally have to worry about being shot at a bus stop. (And their taechers are members of the WEA and NEA too.)

        Charter schools require state (government!) oversight, a lot of it. No doubt, the church-affiliated schools (most of them) do a pretty good job delivering religious-oriented education on the tax dollar; but more than a few of the unnafiliated ones have turned out to be scams, or worse. Poorly heated classrooms, dirty classroms, lack of textbooks, obsolete textbooks, un-certified “teachers” with criminal records, fraudulent reporting of enrollment to the state- as you say, strict oversight is needed, stricter than was applied at the beginning of our experiment. But then, you have a point- only a few students will have a year or two of education stolen from them. Charter schools do have certain advantages over public ones; notably, they can much more easily refuse or remove violent, and other problematic students. Public schools lack that luxury.

        I think that the thing that ticks me off the most about your attitude, is how readily you accept the meme about how teachers unions are to blame for everything wrong in primary & secondary, that the fact teacher’s have kept their rights to collective bargaining is the problem standing between urban kids and a good education. Paying teachers less, and reducing their benefits produces better teachers how? Turning over poor urban schools to the tender mercies of hedge-fund managers will produce profits for shareholders, and (no doubt) generous bonuses for executives how? Teachers know less about teaching than ideological “intellectuals” at the Heritage Foundation how?

        Anyhow, will somebody- Epstein?- please explain to me this naive, childlike faith in the all-encompassing wisdom of the profit motive? I just don’t get it.

        P.S. Yossarian- you should swim to Sweden. Colonel Cathcart really is trying to kill you.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  19. collapse expand

    Gosh, Matt, where to start with this debacle.

    I wrote about it for the Huffington Post, which you can find here:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-moreci/chicago-the-privatized-ci_b_187753.html

    Some of the figures have changed, but the point is the same.

    I’m a admirer of your work and am glad you’re tackling this topic.

  20. collapse expand

    Typical Richie. Had he succeeded in selling off Midway, he’d have offered everyone one free cab ride to the airport. This is the same guy who leased out the Skyway for 99 years in exchange for $1.8billion. Looked nice at first until one did the math. Since the Skyway was pulling in $40mil a year that would have worked out to just under $4billion over that same 99 years. A quick-fix. Short term smiley face for the city’s bottom line. He traded away $4bil for $1.8bil, and he’s already tapping heavily into that Skyway “rainy day” fund. Now, we have people paying 30 bucks a day to park, thanks to his sweet deal with Abu Dhabi, and he’s offering us one freebie? Typical Richie.

    • collapse expand

      You really should learn something about finance- just because the skyway would have paid out $4B over the entire 100yr lease does not mean it’s worth that much. If I told you that my apt rents for $2000/month would you pay me $2.4M for it ($2000/month for 99yrs)? No.

      Here: http://freeonlinecalculator.net/calculators/financial/present-value-perpetuity.php

      If all I was getting is $40K/year I wouldn’t pay more than $888M for the lease, and that is valuing it as a perpetuity. In reality it’s probably worth less because you lose the lease after 99yrs AND the opportunity cost used to discount the cash flows: 4.5% is historically low for risk-free treasuries and this is NOT risk-free. Try using 9.5% or the midpoint between interest rates and in in 1980 and see how much this is worth.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        No, that’s not the point to the Skyway heist. The Skyway’s original charter had all revenue from the Skyway rolled into maintenance of the Skyway. Light bulbs, potholes, toll collector salaries etc. None of the Skyway money was free for Richie to jack. By leasing it off to the Spanish/Australian group, the original charter was torn up. All that $1.8bil went into the city’s general fund, and people who use the Skyway will be paying the price in the way of higher tolls, and lousy roads. (Thanks for the calculator though. Always needed one of those.)

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  21. collapse expand

    Matt,
    I don’t want to go over what has already been posted, like the fact that the parking meter lease was rammed through with no debate, screwing the city for years to come…but I digress. I live in Bucktown, a nice neighborhood (city north) on a major street-North Damen- where previous to the screw job there were no meters. Then one day meters lined the street. Within a month or so, all the meters were taken out and replace by those damnable kiosks. WTF?! How much did that cost the city? I don’t even own a car and this pisses me off because in the end it f*cks every tax paying citizen. 10.25% sales tax isn’t enough apperently, so Daley is sodomizing us in other creative ways.

  22. collapse expand

    Matt, for your article can you do a fair analysis of the city’s cash flow pre and post privatization to see what kind of deal they got. See Obviously there will be lots of assumptions but you seem to have learned a lot about finance quickly and you’re good at explaining these things in plain English. Thx.

  23. collapse expand

    Am I missing something here? It seems like most of you are complaining about the fact that it is better for the Government to rip-off hardworking people then a private company. How about both are really bad? Indeed, how about addressing the real problem: Both the City Council and this private company are corrupt entities and taxing a parking space on a public street that was originally built with tax dollars is immoral. What I take out of this whole mess is that the government and Corporate America are becoming indistinguishable from each other like some mutant cyborg with its only goal to separate me from my hard-earned money without providing me any value.

    • collapse expand

      I actually agree that the streets should be part of the ‘commons,’ but then the streets in Chicago get heavy use thanks to our ridiculous winters and need a serious amount of maintenance. For that, we should pay. I don’t have a problem with drivers paying for their parking spots because of the cost of maintaining our roads, but I have a serious problem with a private corporation profiting from a city asset.

      What you say about the council is absolutely correct, of course. Meh.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  24. collapse expand

    matt-yes, we all have strong opinions, and i don’t think you’ll find someone with an “i’m happy with it” thought. I’m especially pissed off because our (chicago residents’) property taxes have gone through the roof, even though we have lost ~ 25% in value.

  25. collapse expand

    OK, ok I get it already, everyone hates the mayor and the aldermen that passed this deal. That being said, can I find a curbside metered parking space a lot easier now? Yes Can I pay with a credit card and get a receipt that I can deduct as a business expense? Yes Would I rather pay $4.25 for an hour in the Loop at a pay box or $20 to park in the fifth level of a garage? Hell yes! Did the meters freeze when it was -16 degrees? Less than 100 out of 4,100 but that was blown way out of proportion by the media because “this meter thing has legs!” and it’s a better story to snipe about the 2% that were frozen than the 98% that worked fine. Exactly where would the City be if they didn’t have the 1.2 Billion they received for the meters? And why was it that they received 1.2 Billion? Because they (not the buyers) set the rate increases in stone as part of the deal. There is no such thing as a free lunch or free healthcare for that matter. If people get the government they deserve, then the majority of Chicagoans must have had one doozy of a past life because they’ve been getting one hell of a raw deal for decades.

  26. collapse expand

    Dont take care taxi, mass transit easier and quicker.

  27. collapse expand

    As a resident of the Chicago suburbs, I too could care less about the annual get out of jail free card. I do however have two major gripes about the new parking system. First, since it is so hard to work, and because there are NO free parking days anymore, not even on holidays, someone must have been in cahoots with the private parking garage owners.

    Second, if Chicago is going to make it so hard to park, why didn’t they work with the transit system to make it easier for us to do the right thing and take the train into town? The commuter rail schedule is basically worthless except during weekday peak commuting hours. Why don’t they make a frequent schedule, say every 15 minutes 8am to 1am, so that everyone gets to save energy and avoid parking? Seems simple, doesn’t it? But maybe that’s the point, to maximize revenue for parking facilities rather than fix our environment and help us save energy.

  28. collapse expand

    I live in Los Angeles and privatizing the city’s parking is something apparently Mayor Villagarosa has been trying to push through. Not sure where it’s at. I actually complained to my City Councilman when I saw him at Trader Joe’s about it. He’s on the fence about it. As a prelude to this, the rates for all the parking meters in the city were raised — without notice. Probably everyone in the city got at least one parking ticket for not knowing their $.25 no longer got one hour but only 15 minutes. I know I was pissed. But rates will be raised far beyond that soon. The privatization doesn’t make any sense to me — how the city will save or make money if profits will be going to some company. Plus, one has to assume they will be hiring minimum wagers with no bennies — which decreases the tax base for the city and will put more stress on, say, emergency rooms for the uninsured. I could also get into the camera ticket things, which are purely a money-making endeavor but does not making driving through busy intersections any safer.

  29. collapse expand

    From wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleveland_Public_Power

    “In December 1978, Mayor Dennis Kucinich refused to sell the company when a number of banks, which were heavily invested in Muny Light’s privately owned competitor, the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company (better known as CEI or The Illuminating Company) refused to roll over the city’s debt, as had previously been customary. This was seen as a bad move at the time – unable to pay its debts, the city became the first since the Great Depression to enter default – but Kucinich’s decision was later vindicated by both city officials and the U.S. Senate, which found that CEI and the banks had acted improperly.”

    So, obviously, the right thing to do is cash out, betray the citizenry, and keep the good times rolling. Kucinich’s decision destroyed his career for nearly two decades. Daley will probably be re-elected until he retires.

    Thanks, Tea Party Nation!

  30. collapse expand

    I am a lifelong Chicagoan, with a 312 area code and a 606 zip code.
    The sale of these parking meters was THE single most stupid idea to come out of Richie Daley’s administration, ever. The rage that I and other Chicagoans have on this matter is akin to what was felt in the Winter of 1979 before Mayor Bilandic received the boot in the Democratic primary.
    I received a ticket for an expired meter that was not functioning in Andersonville. I fought it and won, but I also wrote a letter to the local Chamber of Commerce that I am not returning, and have not.
    Most of the $$$ from this boondoggle was spent for this year’s city budget. The real problems will reach crisis mode next year.

  31. collapse expand

    I live in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago and though I take the train rather than drive most of the time, I am particularly pissed off about this deal.

    I’m not so angry about the five-minute thing, that this new private company can’t manage the meters properly, or about what happens when it snows and no one can see the ticket you put on your windshield (no one took the time to actually think about the details).

    I’m pissed at this culture of selling off long-term public assets for short term gain. It’s incredibly short-sighted effort made in backrooms by people that don’t care what this city will be like in 40-50 years because they will be dead, out of office, or living in the suburbs off our tax revenue. The problem is that Chicago won’t make a dime off money from these parking meters for the next 75 years. This is money that should be going to pay for roads, schools and public services. Instead, the money will be gone in two years and some clout-heavy assholes and their extended family will be living off our city revenue for years to come. Meanwhile, we’ll just sell off more assets and nickel and dime everyone to make up the difference.

    We also privatized the Skyway and Daley is talking about selling off our water system, Midway Airport and god knows what else.

    The fact this deal got done in backrooms with a rubber stamp from City Council is not surprising — every decision is made this way and has been for years. I can’t believe other cities are considering the same thing. I don’t know how else to say it…It’s just fucking stupid.

    Check out the Chicago Reader for details on how this was done. If you really want a feel for how messed up this is, consider that Mayor Daley has $500 million sitting in TIF funds he could use rather than sell off public assets. Many believe this was his Olympic “slush fund.” Regardless of intent, that money could be used to put the city back on track financially with about $200 million to spare. Instead, they decided to screw the city out of over $1 billion in future revenue over the next 75 years. That money will be gone in two years.

  32. collapse expand

    I am perhaps the only Chicagoan I know who has no opinion of the ongoing parking meter fiasco. (I don’t drive, and think there are far more pressing issues facing our city…) however, as mentioned above, Ben Joravsky is your man for this.

  33. collapse expand

    I am a Chicago resident. The new “meters” are very difficult to use, very inconvenient, very expensive, prone to failure and have numerous downsides for the public. Gone are the days of driving up to a meter and finding some “extra time” left so you can run in a store for something quick. Also gone is the ability to add time to the meters to stay in a restaurant a bit longer, etc. You walk half a block to the machine in sometimes horrible weather, pay your money for a set amount of time (sometimes waiting for newbies in front of you who spend minutes trying to figure out the system), walk back to your car, place a paper printout on your dashboard and go on your way. If you buy 45 minutes and decide 15 minutes into your stay you need an hour – you go out and repeat the process, forfeiting 30 minutes time: 50 cents, or a dollar, or more downtown. You can’t “add time.” Sometimes, you pay twice. Or, you can wait out the time, constantly checking the clock so you don’t get taken for the extra money. It used to be just going out and dropping an extra quarter or two in the meter to add the extra time, but now it’s pay twice or watch the clock. If you don’t use all your time, it doesn’t get passed on to the the next person using the spot: again the meter company gets paid twice. In my neighborhood, vast stretches of streets where these machines are placed are entirely empty of parked cars. People will do virtually anything to avoid using these machines. The rates have quadrupled, and as I understand it the plan is for an eight fold increase within 2-3 years. There are also no lines designating what a “space” is (this used to be obvious by the placement of the meters), so now a stretch of street that might hold eight cars will accommodate maybe five, since people can’t be concerned with taking more than one spot. When the day comes and you absolutely need to use the new system, often you can’t squeeze your car into the spaces between the others. What I’m getting at here is yes, it’s full bore scam and ripoff from virtually any angle. But it’s the basic frustration and diminution of the quality of daily life that gets overlooked. You get ripped off, and you get frustrated, and you accept it. Daley know this phenomena of public acceptance can be taken as a given. He does whatever he pleases, and if asked, his standard response is simply, “You gotta have revenue.” It seems to me that politics nearly always follows one basic rule: “reward your friends and punish your enemies.” We all know who Daley’s (or Obama’s, or Mitch McConnel’s) friends are, and we see the rewards they reap daily in stark relief. But, we have also seen their enemies, and freinds, it is us.

  34. collapse expand

    Matt, as a Chicago reporter, I’d like to echo what Megan Cottrell and Claire Bushey said and add this:

    I certainly feel like the parking ticket scandal will be the Achilles’ heel of Mayor Richard M. Daley and likely his downfall. The most distant Chicago mayoral comparison would be Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic. He famously botched the emergency snow plow removal in 1979 and it cost him his next term. Certainly Daley has far more clout and standing but there is alway time for change when enough people are angry. Daley’s ask for forgiveness now, is too little, too late.

    On a personal level, I received a ridiculous parking ticket a few months ago for allegedly being more than 12 inches from the curb. I received this ticket after a Chicago cop, who showed up at a car accident I was in after a taxi driver rear-ended me, asked me out on a date. I told him no. He then tracked me down on Facebook and tried to friend me and called my cell phone after pulling it from the police report. I then started getting a lot of paking tickets. A lot goes unchecked here.

    You can see my T/S rant “Screw Parking Tickets(And the Cops who Give them)” Here: http://tiny.cc/f9vRZ

  35. collapse expand

    Huge parking costs and meters that don’t work. That’s why I don’t drive in Chicago. Oh wait. Public transportation doesn’t work properly either, and the price is being raised to 3 dollars a ride. I might as well live in New York. I wonder if Matt needs a roommate.

  36. collapse expand

    You should speak with Driftglass about this. He has had a lot to say on the subject. http://driftglass.blogspot.com/

  37. collapse expand

    The backstory here is some recent economic research showing that the most undertaxed property in any city is… public parking spaces. To quote economist Mason Gaffrey:
    Donald Shoup is publishing currently on the multiple benefits of metering curb parking at higher rates. Shoup sees meter revenues as rent charges. He estimates their revenue potential as astonishingly high, equal to all existing property tax revenues from all kinds of private property.
    “The Hidden Taxable Capacity of Land: Enough and to Spare” (p. 25)
    http://economics.ucr.edu/papers/papers08/08-12old.pdf

    So if Chicago politicians believed in good government, the solution would be simple– increase tax parking meters fees in order to decrease property taxes. But come on people, why should the suckers who live and vote in Chicago benefit from this research with lower property tax bills when there are Wall Street investors who see its time to get paid?

    We now live in a half-assed country that can’t solve any problem if it stands in the way of somebody rich making more money (healthcare, climate change, banking reform, etc). If our current crop of politicians had been running the show during World War II, our number one export would be Japanese Army comfort women.

  38. collapse expand

    The backstory here is some recent economic research showing that the most undertaxed property in any city is… public parking spaces. To quote economist Mason Gaffney:
    Donald Shoup is publishing currently on the multiple benefits of metering curb parking at higher rates. Shoup sees meter revenues as rent charges. He estimates their revenue potential as astonishingly high, equal to all existing property tax revenues from all kinds of private property.
    “The Hidden Taxable Capacity of Land: Enough and to Spare” (p. 25)
    http://economics.ucr.edu/papers/papers08/08-12old.pdf

    So if Chicago politicians believed in good government, the solution would be simple– increase tax parking meters fees in order to decrease property taxes. But come on people, why should the suckers who live and vote in Chicago benefit from this research with lower property tax bills when there are Wall Street investors who see its time to get paid?

    We now live in a half-assed country that can’t solve any problem if it stands in the way of somebody rich making more money (healthcare, climate change, banking reform, etc). If our current crop of politicians had been running the show during World War II, our number one export would be Japanese Army comfort women.

  39. collapse expand

    I AM NOT POSTING TOO QUICKLY. It was my first post ever. And to think YOU requested commentary. I’ll try again.

    this is from my daughter, a downtown Chicago resident (where there are no meters and parking is scarce) recently moved to Oak Park, rendering the issue moot, and excuse me for not adding appropriate quotations FOR THE SECOND TIME:

    “I think they should devise a system (somehow, not sure of the logistics) where if you need to add more money to your meter, you can do it via your phone or online. I think that would go a long way to placate people who are not only getting totally ripped off on the parking meters, but who also often end up paying for more time than they need, just so they don’t run out before they make it back to the car.

    as for Daley’s offering of a one-time 5 minute grace period, I think it is piddly. I heard he wanted them to give unlimited 5 minute grace periods, and I’m sure the company just wouldn’t go with it.

    In general, I am conflicted with the parking meter situation because I don’t drive, and I do think it is good to have deterrents to people driving to places that are already extremely congested. I have clients who I feel could pretty easily take public transportation to my office but don’t and then they have to leave my office a couple of times during our consultation to go feed the meters. Public transportation.

    I may send some part of this to Matt if I have time. I’m not really sure posting on his website will do anything to get the mayor’s attention. I don’t know if my views can be considered a ’strong opinion’”

    she subsequently added (and don’t you dare warn me I’m “posting too quickly”:

    “would also ditto what everyone else said. The outrageous part of the parking meter situation is really that Daley privatized the parking meters behind everyone’s backs and Chicago got screwed. The outrageous prices of the meters is secondary, in my opinion. My response is to simply continue to take public transportation everywhere I go to avoid having to deal with the meters, but I know that is not an option for everybody.”

    now, having copied the text, I’ll still be disinclined to repost should your server bounce me back again.

  40. collapse expand

    Thanks for asking about the parking meters. Many people think we have been lulled into a zombie-like acceptance of one of Daley’s most in-your-face affronts to the serfs in his kingdom. I find it especially heinous in below zero wind chills to walk back and forth down the block for the purpose of paying yet another tax to support the multiple pensions of the political hacks of the Daley regime. Unlike the one-time snow storm that brought down Bilandic, this harassment just goes on and on and on with multiple increases scheduled along the way. It’s a great way to keep the unrest simmering among the masses. The one ticket per year pardon makes it even more insulting.

  41. collapse expand

    There is only one good thing about Chicago’s privatization of its parking meters: it is making us aware of how stupid it is to privatize public utilities. It may be tempting to sell thieves the right to rip off certain groups of people for a hefty sum, but when you find yourself being part of the group that is being ripped off, you wizen up quick. At least with parking meters we only get ripped off for a few hundred dollars here and there for the privilege of parking our cars. Maybe we’ll learn our lesson before we let our politicians privatize the water supply.

  42. collapse expand

    i guess i’m one of the few chicagoans who actually likes the end but not the means. did parking rates have to go up? yes: there was a shortage of parking in the city and little desire to build yet another parking structure. should the city be in the job of subsidizing parking (by keeping the rates artificially low)? ah, no. but the kicker is that the city, for a variety of reasons, could never increase the rates…i wish the mayor would have made the argument to increase the rates, but he’s pretty much of a fraud. was the transaction transparent? obviously not. was implementation done well? obviously not. was the price fair…that is debatable (check out felix solomon’s piece on the price and then the Chicago Readers invaluable reporting). but the result: more available parking without new construction is a decided benefit. i use my car less and take the bus and train more, but when i do use my car i am now confident that parking is available…now if some of that money could be spent on CTA upgrades that would be the best result. could any politician have proposed increasing parking rates and targeting the increased revenues to the CTA and succeeded? i doubt it, but we’ll never know. so yes, i like higher rates for the result, but i do not trust our mayor and his methods.

  43. collapse expand

    Chicago resident here. There are lots of problems with the parking meeter fiasco and parking tickets in general, which have been detailed in many places, including the comments here.

    I will say, though, it is in general a good thing that prices have gone up, and the amount of time that are subject to meters have gone up as well. There are a lot more available parking spaces now. Traffic has decreased, because people spend less time driving around looking for parking.

    In general, the new pricing structure is better for the quality of life of most everyone. The problem, of course, is that the money is going to the purchasers, rather than the city.

    One of the commentaries I’ve read is that the votes weren’t there to institute our current pricing structure without selling off the meters for the immediate revenue. Which is sad.

    I’d say the changes are a mixed bag. Good for Chicago in the short term, probably bad in the long term. It is too bad they didn’t sell 5 or 10 years of revenue, instead of 75.

  44. collapse expand

    There’s been so much written about this topic — in Chicago, our blogs and this thread — that’s hard to add something but here I go…

    By leasing the parking meters, the city gave away the rights to control or alter the public way in a significant manner. Removing spaces to widen a street, create a turn lane or relieve congestion requires a flat payment by the city to the private company. We would have to pay what that parking space would generate over the course of the lease. In one flat sum.

    Technically, it can be done, but at great financial cost. Chicago can’t afford it.

    I’m very curious where you’re going with this topic Matt. Very curious.

  45. collapse expand

    Parking Situation In Andersonville I am a small business owner and need a truck to support my business. The truck is a standard Chevy white truck that I have been parking by the school in the 1400 block of W Bryn Mawr for the last 2 years without incident. I got a ticket at 7:30 am this morning for ‘parking in a residential neighborhood’. I called the city and I was told: – All streets are residential – I could only park my truck at metered spots and feed the meter until 9 pm – Or alternatively park the truck in a garage I informed the city official that trucks are too high for city garages (by code) and asked again where I could park my truck legally within the hours of 6 pm and 8 am in my neighborhood and I was not given an answer. Chicago used to be a Democratic city that I was proud to live in. I always thought that the little businesses could grow and thrive here. Not anymore. Daly will not be re-elected.

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