Gary Kinsler has a brief take on the parking meter pay box that appeared a year ago in front of his car repair shop in the North Center neighborhood: “It’s not helping anyone. It’s just another form of tax, It’s just taxing people.”
For years, spots in front of his business on Lincoln Avenue, the Autohaus, were free—even motorists grumbled while feeding meters across the city, as part of Chicago’s infamous 2008 money in the pockets of private investors. Used to put parking meter deals,
But those free parking spots disappeared in July 2021 when Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration decided to install meters north of Irving Park Road up and down Lincoln, including in front of Kinsler’s shop. City records show these were just some of the 1,802 locations that have been metered since Lightfoot took over in 2019.
Now ticket writers are “like vultures on a branch waiting to hunt,” ready to flaunt and slap unwanted orange envelopes on windshields outside businesses at Lincoln, Kinsler said.
“We get a lot of customers who get annoyed, because when they try to go into the store, they park there, put in a dollar or two and by the time they get back there, they’re already on the car. Got the ticket,” he said.
Since Lightfoot took over in May 2019, new parking meter spots have collected nearly $14.6 million from drivers, with the amount increasing every year as more metered spots are added to the grid, city records show. .
The new meters are the latest twist in an ongoing saga that has angered Chicagoans for more than a decade, focused mostly on the city’s decision to sell control of all citywide parking meters for 75 years 14 years ago. For private investment of $1.15 billion, The private firm has already recovered its investment as well as another $500 million and counting.
Lightfoot inherited the infamous parking meter deal. But as mayor-elect, she said she would, with the approval of the city council, replace former mayor Richard M. Daly, adding that as mayor she will try to make the deal better for Chicagoans.
In the more than three years since then, however, Lightfoot has not announced any changes to the contract with Chicago Parking Meter LLC. In addition, 193 new areas where drivers have to pay to park have been added since the mayor took office, covering portions of the block in neighborhoods such as Kinslers, mostly around the North Side and around the city.
A review of metered street parking spaces since 2019 shows that some have taken up entire city blocks, while others have only a few spaces.
Last year, for example, Lightfoot added a parking zone that spanned more than a full block near the site of the former Cabrini-green housing complex, while also a pay box in July 2021 for only a few parking spaces next to a gas were added. The station on Southport Avenue, south of Diversi Avenue.
In 2019, the city added 17 new areas where drivers had to pay to park. The administration said 10 of them were in the works to be added before Lightfoot became mayor. That year, the city collected only $14,000 in revenue from those 17 areas. As more new locations were added in 2020, the city collected $640,000 in revenue from metered locations added since Lightfoot took over, city records show. According to the city, in 2021, Lightfoot-era pay boxes brought in $5.44 million, although 47 of the 47 added that year weren’t even online for the entire year, having become active between July 1 and December 3. ,
And so far in 2022, the city said, parking meters installed since Lightfoot took over have generated $8.5 million.
According to an annual audit by accounting firm KPMG, the 2021 race from drivers was part of the previous year’s total of $136 million in meter revenue collected by Chicago Parking Meter LLC.
As Chicago recovered from the pandemic, 2021 Tech saw a significant increase in meter revenue to more than $91.6 million in 2020.
Lightfoot gained attention for adding 96 pay boxes to its 2021 budget, covering approximately 750 locations, Some of them around Montrose Harbor,
Treasury Department spokeswoman Rose Tibian said the money raised from the new meters does not represent an additional tax burden on Chicagoans because the city will use it to make contractual payments to Chicago Parking Meter LLC for the cost of parking spaces taken out of service for festivals. to do. Road repairs and other reasons.
Those so called true-up payments has long been a source of conflict between the city and the meter companyAnd one of the few long-term contract mayors over the past several years have identified as costs they can fight to show residents that they are at least trying to improve the situation.
“Installation of the new meters allows the city to free up corporate fund dollars to pay for essential urban services such as police, fire and more,” Tibayan said in an emailed statement.
But the city can always try to find $10 million in savings in its $16.7 billion budget, instead installing meters in more places.
“What are they doing with the money they’re already getting from us?” Kinsler asked.
Kinsler’s frustration is mirrored by complaints that have been filed against the city since the day the deal was officially signed. Not only has the Chicago parking meter gotten its one-time payment back six decades along, mayors, including Lightfoot, have little room to make actual changes to the treaty.
When he succeeded Daly, Mayor Rahm Emanuel spent years trying to find ways to solve it.
In the end, Emanuel settles to fight the true-up payments, Introducing a pay-by-cellphone system and allowing free parking on Sundays At many of the 36,000-metre sites around the city in exchange for long paid parking hours the rest of the week.
In addition to parking meters, Daly also leases the Chicago Skyway. $1.82 billion For 99 years, and leased downtown parking garages near Millennium Park and Grant Park, financial arrangements that, while providing the city with an upfront infusion of cash, have aged badly.
The parking meter deal’s prime place in the sky of Chicago government failures recently became clear again.
Critics of how quickly Lightfoot moved to finalize an agreement to allow Bally to build a casino in the West River Daly’s quick city council vote on the lease called for In urging him to slow down and get more feedback.
Paul Wallace, a former budget director and head of Chicago public schools under Daly, who is running for mayor for a second time, called Lightfoot “The hideous ghost of the infamous parking meter deal“In an op-ed the casinos urged caution in their decisions.
and the city eld. 42nd, Brendan Reilly, said the casino process was “actually worse than the parking meter deal process.”