Monthly Archives: September 2008
Today, September 30th, is the last day to have your in-person parking ticket hearings at the city’s West side hearing center.
The location, run as a payment center and administrative hearing facility at 800 N. Kedzie (at Chicago), will no longer be open to hearings as of today.
The payment center will (of course) remain open.
This reduces the number of locations for in-person hearings from four to three.
The closing of this facility for hearings seems to directly effect west side residents who will now have travel farther for their hearings.
Also important to note, the city has six payment centers and only three hearing facilities. Hmmmmmm…
The remaining three locations for in-person hearings include:The Central Hearing Facility 400 W. Superior Hours: 9-4 M-F, 9-3 Sat.
South side Facility 2006 E. 95th St. Hours: 8-4 M-F
North side Facility 2550 W. Addison Hours: 8-4 M-F
Bill Harrison is a jazz musician. Bill Harrison is a blogger.
But in his most recent blog post on Fierce Wolf Howl is not about music, but about his experience getting towed about a week or so ago.
This story does not have a happy ending. But it is definitely enlightening to the uninitiated.
Warning: The content of this post may raise your blood pressure. The story told here is true. No names have been changed to protect anyone.
As someone who frequently works in downtown Chicago and has to schlep large instruments to and from my car, parking occupies a far-too-large space in my consciousness. For those who don’t know, the first ten minutes of every gig is spent discussing where everyone parked and how much (if anything) each of us had to pay for the “privilege” of stashing a vehicle in the downtown area for a few hours. Often the most challenging aspect of my work is figuring out where to park and how to gain access to the venue in the most efficient allowable way. Strategies for parking in this town are as mulled over and discussed as presidential politics – actually more so, since there isn’t a parking “season”.
Sometimes mistakes are made. I put that in the passive tense not only to ridicule Ronald Reagan but also to soften the harsh reality that smacks one in the face when one’s car gets towed by Streets and Sanitation. Yes, it happens, to some of us more frequently than others. I have been particularly unlucky in this regard, having somehow missed the “tow zone” signs too many times to count, usually because I’m in a hurry and (I’ll admit) reluctant to give up the hunt for street parking and actually put my car in a parking lot. Perhaps it is my version of going on safari. Every once in awhile you get mauled by a lion, or a tow truck, as the case may be.
The tow truck drivers have been known to get a little over-zealous. My car has been forcibly removed from several spots unjustifiably. And whenever you get towed, it’s the double whammy: you get a parking ticket ($50-75, depending on the type of alleged violation) AND you have to pay $160 for the tow. Then there’s the ignominious task of going down into the bowels of hell to retrieve your vehicle from the auto pound.
But the important point here is that when you get towed you are presumed guilty until proven innocent. It is up to the driver to prove that he was NOT in violation of the law. You are slammed with a fine before you even have a chance to make a phone call, let alone have your day in court. It is no secret that collecting parking fines and towing fees is a major source of revenue for the city; so the chances of getting actual justice in these instances is slim to nil.
About ten days ago I was parked on a downtown street early in the morning. I’d carefully observed the posted signs and had put my car in a loading zone: no parking 8 AM to 6 PM. I returned to the spot at 7:50 to discover that my car was gone, no doubt having been glommed by Attila the Tow Man. Within an hour I was down in Dante’s Inferno negotiating all the paperwork needed to reunite me with my old minivan and, of course, forking over $160.
The vehicle had been towed in violation of a “No parking 7-9 AM” regulation that supposedly applies to the street where I had parked. Only… there are NO signs stating that anywhere on that block. I was pretty sure of this but I decided to go back with my digital camera to take a batch of pictures that I could use as evidence to support my case. Friends, there really aren’t any posted warnings that one might be towed between 7 and 9 AM. I took photos of the actual spot, and the immediate area surrounding the spot, as well as close-ups of the signs and the address.
For added irony, on the day of my hearing I had parked at a meter and was 5 minutes late getting back to that spot, having paid for 2 hours of parking. As I approached the car I saw both Rita the Meter Maid and the little gift she had left for me on the windshield. Ah, what’s another $50 at this point? I drove to the City of Chicago Parking Violations Bureau, or whatever the hell its called, paid to park in a lot (which distressed me to no end) and sat myself down in the dreary hearing room waiting for my case to be called.
It turns out that you don’t get your case heard by an actual judge. The guy making the call is an attorney contracted by the city to take care of its parking dirty work. I found him to be a small-minded toady, like a character from a David Mamet play. Captain Bringdown informed me that this hearing is just about the towing; dealing with the $60 ticket is a whole separate matter, which I could pursue on another day if I so chose. He found my evidence irrelevant because, get this, I didn’t have photos of the entire block showing that there are no signs regarding the 7-9 AM restrictions. The photos only showed that I was not in violation of the loading zone, not the more global (and invisible) regulations.
Needless to say, I was fit to be tied. The only way to appeal this decision is to file a civil suit against the city, which would eat up who knows how much time require me to pay filing fees. I might even have to hire an attorney. So the deck is stacked entirely against the driver, even if he has truly not violated the law. I plan to pursue a defense against the ticket itself, more on the principal of the thing rather than to save the money. I am presently armed with photos of the entire block; up, down and sideways, plus the aerial views.
Have I mentioned that I hate everything having to do with parking downtown?
Over a week ago, when the booter for the city got shot, the Sun-Times came out with an editorial.
I forgot to post it. Today’s Sunday and I don’t feel that motivated to write anything substantial.
So chew on this.
This is a plea for common decency. Every day, city workers making an honest living booting cars face a barrage of rude, threatening and violent behavior.
On Monday, a worker was shot simply for doing his job — booting a car owned by someone who owed the city money.
That is just the most extreme example of what workers deal with.
Taunts, kicks and the occasional flash of a deadly weapon are some of the lesser threats, several told Sun-Times reporter Kara Spak.
The job is dangerous enough that booters wear bulletproof vests.
“Unfortunately, we have to watch our backs each and every time we boot a vehicle,” one worker said.
Is this what our mothers taught us?
We’ve all been there. The rage wells. You want to take it out on someone.
Don’t do it.
These folks are just doing their jobs. They didn’t make the laws, they didn’t write the tickets. They’re earning a living, saving up to pay the rent and for new shoes for their kids. At $27 an hour, booters aren’t getting rich.
A little common decency can go a long way in making city workers safer. More precautions by the city might also help.
In January, all booters began working solo. Before that, about 60 percent of the city’s booting vans featured teams of two.
The city switched to solo operation because computers now scan license plates looking for violators, eliminating the need for a second worker to do that work.
But that second person did more than data entry, several booters said. They helped deter car owners looking for trouble and acted as backup in a tough situation. To compensate, more security cameras and other security measures were added.
The city Revenue Department calls Monday’s shooting an isolated incident (though another booter was shot in 2004). Complaints by booters have not increased since January, the city says.
Still, the city has a responsibility to carefully evaluate whether solo booters really are safe. Mayor Daley said Wednesday he had no plans to go back to two-person teams. But when a solo arson investigator was shot in June, the Fire Department immediately switched from one- to two-person teams of investigators.
Bea Reyna-Hickey, director of the city’s Revenue Department, assured us she would evaluate the switch from one- to two-person teams of booters. We’ll be waiting to hear what she learns.
That’s just not right.
Check out the full sized image at Oscar Arriola’s Flickr page.
Our trusted pal Ticketmaster is reporting to The Expired Meter that Saturday enforcement will continue at higher than traditional levels for the foreseeable future.
“We were issued a memo that until further notice (as long as productivity is up) the
DOR will continue to work Saturday enforcement,” explained Ticketmaster. “The decision will be made on a week to week basis, however as of right now, my collegues and I have been doing a damn good job. See everyone this weekend!”
As always, thanks for the heads up Ticketmaster.
Now I want everyone to watch their parking P’s & Q’s this Saturday. Don’t ruin your weekend by parking stupid, taking a chance or not feeding your meter and getting a parking ticket.
I drove my to Montreal and received a ticket for parking in front of a hydrant (we did not see it as it was several feet and there was no signage). I have not paid the ticket because I live in Chicago and don’t plan on taking that same car back to Canada. Is this wise?
Screw those uptight French speaking Canucks!
I’ll do some checking, but I don’t think they can’t do anything across the border.
I mean, if Chicago can’t really enforce their tickets across state lines effectively, how can Montreal, Canada enforce them over an international border?
I mean really, what can they do? Send a few mounties down on horseback to scold you?
Very truly yours,
P.S. I hear Montreal is beautiful this time of year.
Dear Parking Ticket Geek,
Question: I’ve gotten three parking tickets recently, all of which are totally bogus, and which I’m currently contesting, and which I’m fully expecting to be thrown out. But, while they’re in waiting, am I eligible for the boot for having unpaid parking tickets, or does this only apply to final decisions? Online, they all say “hearing pending” or “hearing scheduled”.
First, let me congratulate you on having the cajones to fight your tickets. Great job. You are setting an excellent example and I hope it encourages more people to fight back.
Your question is a common question, but you can only get booted if you have three tickets or more in Final Determination. This means you would have had three or more tickets that are unpaid. In order to get booted, you will see a flurry of different notices from the city (Notice of Violation, Determination, Final Determination, Seizure Status, etc.).
If you are contesting these tickets, you are still safe. In fact, you are in really good shape at this point. The city, by law, needs to give you your chance to adjudicate these tickets before you even get close to getting booted.
Just go out and kick the city’s ass and get these three tickets dismissed.
Please keep the Geek posted.
Very truly yours,
The Parking Ticket Geek
I apparently got a ticket for a no front plate violation a few months ago.
I never got a ticket on my car though (and it is not the first time either
where I have gotten a no front plate violation for apparently just driving
by an area and being noticed with no front plate. On 2 other occasions, I
got them too for places I know I never parked and just drove through).
Anyways, while I reside in the city, my car is registered in the suburbs at
my parents’ house and the tickets were sent there. I just noticed the ticket and it is already in final determination and the fine has doubled from $50 to $100.
While I understand they gave me proper notification as the tickets were sent to the registered address on the car, is there any way I can reduce the ticket back to the $50? It’s not that big of a deal but on pure principle, I hate having to give the city more money than necessary.
Or am I just better off paying the $100 and getting it over with?
I’m sorry to say there is probably no chance your paying less than the doubled fine of $100.
We all know how compassionate, understanding and flexible the city is. But I’ve never seen or heard of the city taking too kindly to someone trying to haggle over the cost of a parking ticket. Perhaps this would make a great episode of Candid Camera, Lenta Loco or MTV’s Jackass to try this, but I don’t think it will fly.
If you got notice where it was registered and didn’t fight or pay in a timely manner, there is really no way around the $100–except NOT paying.
As long as you don’t have 3 unpaid tickets in Final Determination, you could probably hold off for a while without fear of the boot. Let’s put it this way. If you only have a single ticket, they can’t boot you. At the same time, that $100 will not double again, it’s stuck at $100. So what’s the hurry to pay it unless you have three tickets or more in final determination?
But I suggest checking your plate online to make sure you are not boot eligible, just in case you missed some other tickets. Just make sure you don’t have three or tickets and you’re good.
Having your plates registered in the suburbs is a great strategy for avoiding the city’s dreaded city sticker, but the down side is the distinct possibility of missing important parking ticket correspondence from the city.
Very truly yours,
Mr. Ticket Geek,
I got a parking ticket for a day I know for a fact I wasn’t in the city at all since my son was just born a few days before. It was also for a street I’ve never been on in my life. I explained this over the mail, even put in a copy of my son’s birth certificate and I just got the notice I must pay.
How does this happen? Do they write down the wrong license plate number and not verify the VIN? I even gave my real VIN in my response, nothing worked. Does the city impose a random parking ticket tax on people in the burbs, or is there another logical explanation?
Since I can’t “prove” I was not in city, and if dealing with a first born isn’t proof, what is? How do I keep this from happening again other than move to another state?
Congratulations on the addition to your family.
Mayor Daley sends his well wishes with that nice $50 parking ticket.
I’m not surprised on the outcome. Hearing officers are completely unpredictable. And I don’t have answers to your questions except to explain it this way. The city needs money. Lot’s of it. It’s not uncommon for improperly written tickets to be issued or even tickets to be fictionalized to meet that “ticket quota” that of course, according to the city, does not exist. And there’s no such thing as The Chicago Machine either.
Your only thing you can do is appeal to the Circuit Court of Cook County. This is expensive, time consuming and you really need to be reasonably confident the hearing officer erred and/or did not follow the law in their decision. I would advise against this tact.
If you live in the suburbs, and don’t have any other tickets, I would tell the city to shove it up their ass and try to collect. You may get a few nasty letters or calls from a collection agency, but you can tell them to stick it too if you like. Just don’t get three tickets or more and you can’t get booted.
Very truly yours,
The Parking Ticket Geek
Ask The Parking Ticket Geek is a weekly parking ticket advise column here at The Expired Meter.
If you have a question for The Parking Ticket Geek, please e-mail the Geek at: firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s a great show. Tune in for this special one hour live show, hear a lot of very interesting guests and one dumbass obsessed with parking tickets.
Nearly every week, this website gets e-mails from people new to Chicago who have received Mayor Daley’s version of a “Welcome To Chicago” gift–a bright orange parking ticket or tickets for some infraction that someone from a normal place in America, would never think could be a legitimate violation.
These surprised and exasperated drivers then turn to our website with questions.
So The Expired Meter has put together a primer for new Chicago residents whom drive.
Read and heed the advice below and you’ll be a lot happier Chicagoan.
We are basically compressing approximately 12 months of learning the hard and expensive way, into 15 minutes of reading.
You are welcome!
License Plates & Registration
If you move to Chicago from out of state, technically, you must obtain new Illinois registration and license plates from the Illinois Secretary of State within 30 days.
You have 90 days to drive on your former state’s driver’s license before it must be obtain an Illinois driver’s license.
If you move to Chicago from another town, technically, you have 30 days to change your registration address and get a new driver’s license, with the Illinois Secretary of State.
Here’s where you can find your closest Secretary of State Drivers Facility.
For more information on this subject, check out the Secretary of State’s website.
All Chicago residents, technically, with license plates registered to an address within the city limits, must purchase an annual city sticker.
Currently, the city sticker costs $75.
The fine for being a resident and NOT purchasing a city sticker is $120!
New residents are given 30 days from the day they become residents (their move date) to purchase a city sticker. You must go in person to the City Clerk’s office downtown, one of their satellite offices, a Dept. of Revenue substation or at a local currency exchange.
When you make your initial city sticker purchase, you must bring proof of your new residency, ie: a lease or rental agreement.
When you purchase a new vehicle, you also have 30 days to purchase a city sticker and slap it on your windshield.
If you don’t purchase your city sticker within 30 days of your new residency or new vehicle purchase, you’ll be hit with a $40 late fee.
City sticker fees for new residents or for a new vehicle can be pro-rated. The full price of $75 will be in effect until from June 1st to November 30th. But from December 1st to March 31st, it drops to $50 and then drops to $25 from April 1st to May 31st.
You must bring in the proper documentation to prove you qualify for the pro-rated fees with documents which would include your lease, title/mortgage, car dealer bill of sale, vehicle title, or vehicle registration date.
For more information, and locations of payment centers, check out the Chicago City Clerk’s website.
Residential Permit Parking
There are some streets and areas of the city, where drivers are not allowed to park unless they have a residential permit.
Yes, it’s a big bunch of crap as we all know, tax money pays for streets.
But it’s a sad reality in Chicago so here are the facts.
These residential parking zones generally are for very high density areas, but not always.
These zones have different times of enforcement. Some are all the time, 24 hours a day. Others are from 6 PM – 6 AM. It all depends.
The key is to pay attention and not park where these signs are posted. That is unless you are visiting a friend and they have a handy dandy guest pass waiting for you to put on your dashboard.
If you decide to taunt fate and park in a residential parking zone without a sticker, you risk a $60 ticket.
If you move into an area that has zoned parking, you need to change your registration to your new address, make sure you have a city sticker or when you purchase your city sticker, apply for your residential parking permit.
Check out the website for the City Clerk of Chicago for more residential parking permit info.
Trucks are not allowed to park on the majority of residential streets in Chicago. This means pickup trucks too–at least if you have B-Truck plates.
If you move to Chicago with a B-Truck plate, we strongly suggest you change the registration to a standard passenger plate. Otherwise, prepare to be ticketed.
In addition, vehicles with B-Truck plates are not allowed to legally drive on Lake Shore Drive. If anything, this is an even better reason to not have a B-Truck plate.
Back AND Front Plate Display
In Illinois, you must have both back AND front plates displayed on your vehicle. Other states may allow only the back plate displayed. So if you have out of state plates, Illinois law does not apply.
But, here in Illinois, you need to have both. Ignore the law and you will be ticketed and fined $50.
Winter Parking Restrictions
Every year, from December 1 to April 1, a bunch of seasonal parking restrictions and outright parking bans go into effect.
Overnight Parking Bans
There are some major city arteries where no parking is allowed overnight from 3 AM – 7 AM, no matter the weather. Don’t ignore the signs just because there is no snow.
Snow, ice, dry pavement– park overnight on one of these streets and you’re making a trip to the auto pound the next morning.
Here’s a map of the streets where the overnight parking bans are in effect, a full listing of those streets.
Snow Routes (2″ Snow Ban)
There are other major thoroughfares, otherwise known as snow routes in the city where, when 2″ of snow or more hits the ground, you need to move your vehicle elsewhere, lest you be towed. This means ANYTIME there is 2″ of snow or more, not just overnight. So, if you park on one of these streets, you need to watch the weather carefully.
NOTE: Sometimes the 2″ snow ban and the overnight parking bans apply to the same streets.
When winter parking restrictions end, street cleaning season begins.
From April 1 – November 30th, street sweepers putter up and down the streets of Chicago to theoretically clean the pavement and rid the streets of the flotsam and jetsam that urban environments seem to create.
Generally speaking, your street gets swept twice a month. One side gets cleaned on one day and then on the next day, the other side gets cleaned.
Street cleaning enforcement begins at 9 AM and ends at 3 PM. In that time period your vehicle cannot be parked on the side of the street to be cleaned or you risk getting a ticket. And when I say risk, I really mean, it will be ticketed.
Street cleaning violations are $50.00.
Signs announcing street cleaning are either permenantly installed or in most cases, color-coded signs are put up, and again theoretically, 24 hours or more before street cleaning is supposed to occur.
In addition, street cleaning schedules are posted here.
I suggest checking the street cleaning schedules for the streets you park on and then put the dates on your calendar so you have lots of advanced warning.
While enforcement of these violations are already pretty intense, the city has upped the ante and will soon have all street sweepers armed with cameras to make sure it nails everyone who parks illegally on street cleaning days.
Not only are tinted windows not allowed by Chicago municipal law, but are illegal by Illinois state law as well.
If you are moving to Chicago from out of town, make sure you have no, zero, none, nada tint on your front windshield and front side windows.
If you have tinted windows, spend the $30-$50 to have the tint removed or you’ll get hit with a $25 ticket now, but it jumps to $250 after January 15, 2009.
Red light Cameras
If you are moving from out of town, you may not be familiar with these things called red light cameras.
These are special cameras, mounted at certain intersections which will photograph your license plate if you blow through a red light there. A few weeks later you will receive a ticket for $100. These are very hard to beat.
We wrote a more extensive post on red light cameras a few months ago that will give you the red light camera lowdown.
Here is a list of all of Chicago’s red light camera locations.
Most people scream in horror or frustration when they see it on their car. Other people pace and rant when they realize they’ve been caught. It has been known to make grown men cry and hurt the wallets of many. It’s the boot.
The boot or the Denver boot, is a big, yellow, heavy, metal lock the city will slap onto your car, making it immobile, if you don’t pay your parking tickets.
If you have three or more unpaid parking tickets or red light violations in Final Determination Status, you will be eligible for the boot. This may change soon to two tickets if Mayor Daley gets his way. But in the meantime, make sure you have no more than two unpaid tickets or you risk getting booted.
Getting booted will cost you $60 for the boot removal fee, but you also have to pay ALL unpaid tickets that are in final determination.
If you don’t pay up within 24 hours, while it doesn’t happen every time, the city can and will tow your booted vehicle to the auto pound. This will cost you an additional $160 plus any storage fees the longer you leave your vehicle there.
All newer tickets that are being contested, or are still eligible to be contested or are not in Final Determination status, do not have to be paid to have the boot removed.
I’ve heard them all.
When it comes to excuses for parking tickets, I’ve pretty much heard them all. Defenses, stories, excuses, whatever you want to call it–I read tons of them.
Most try to employ some sort of defense, legal or otherwise.
But, I’ve never heard the “chicken soup” defense.
Writer for local blog Philosophart, Cyrus Dowlatshahi, writes a lengthy contest letter to the city, devoid of ANY legal defense, but absolutely compelling, heartfelt, funny and beautifully written, employing what can only be described as the “chicken soup” defense.
If I were the hearing officer I would dismiss this ticket just for the sheer creativity.
If anyone gets points for cleverness, it should be Cyrus.
It is my hope this letter finds the right hearing officer whom has not lost all their ability to be sympathetic, but my guess is he loses.
I hope I am wrong.
Lovely City of Chicago,
Listen, I’m a long-time resident, and I’m hoping you’ll consider the following regarding my recent parking ticket.
On the day in question, September 20th, I was parked in front of my girlfriend’s house at 4847 N. Damen (an apartment building, also the address listed on my Violation Notice).
She’d somehow contracted a fever. I read online that chicken soup would help make her feel better (she’s Jewish and they actually call chicken soup “Jewish Penicillin”; check out the website www.JewishPenicillin.com).
What better way to score some points, I thought, as I parked at the meter in front of her house at a little after 130 p.m. on Saturday. I’m gonna spend the entire day with her. I brought five DVDs over, along with one whole frying chicken, egg noodles, an onion, two carrots, and some celery.
All you do is toss the whole chicken in a big pot of water and boil it down. I added half the onion, some celery, a carrot and some salt to add to the flavor, and checked on it every half hour or so. I was gonna let it stew in there for about two and a half hours.
More to the point, I also set my cell phone alarm to go off every two hours so that I wouldn’t be late on putting more quarters in the meter. I was parked right outside, and she lives on the first floor, so putting two quarters in for a fresh two hours took me about 15 seconds.
These meters were the old kind, where you actually twist the knob before the quarters are swallowed, and a rusty needle tells you how much time you have. Nothing electric about them at all. Needless to say, I was surprised to find a ticket on my car, when I HAD been politely excusing myself, relatively soon after my cell phone went off, to feed the meter.
I’m not the kind of guy who says screw the city. I pay for parking. But I had been doing so well with the girl and NAILED the chicken soup recipe… I’m hoping you can show me some leniency with this fine.
I’ve enclosed a receipt of one of the many purchases I have made here as a resident of the City of Chicago. I hope it shows you that I do not consider myself above the law (I purchase expensive computer software when it is widely available hacked online for free), and that I already pay the city a considerable amount of money (please see the amount paid in sales tax for this single purchase).
Thanks for the consideration.
From the poor house,
I just got back from Toons, a great old school bar in Lakeview.
It takes a lot to get me out to a bar. Not only am I a life long teetotaler, but as you can probably imagine, a goof named The Parking Ticket Geek, doesn’t get out much. So it takes a lot to get me to leave my super-secret Parking Geek HQ.
But this time it was worth it.
Andy and Mike from Outside The Loop Radio invited me to make a guest appearance on their special one-hour 2nd Anniversary show, taped live at Toons.
I honestly had a great time. There were lots of guests, including Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley, one of the few people in government that is fighting for lower taxes. Plus there were some great acoustic music from Detagoh.
The show will air this coming Friday at 6 PM on WLUW 88.7 FM.
A big thanks to Andy & Mike for feeling sorry for me and allowing me to annoy and lower the IQ of everyone who showed up to hear the show.