Monthly Archives: November 2008

A Different Take On City Sticker Contest

Sorry everyone. But I couldn’t pass up posting this contribution regarding the City Clerk’s city sticker design contest from a reader named “Damien”.

Dear Parking Ticket Geek,

I saw your recent article about the city sticker design contest, and how next year’s theme is supposed to be about dogs.

Although I’m not a student or an artist, I am submitting to your website, my idea for an image for the contest.

I think it captures how the city treats it’s citizens and, in particular, drivers. Maybe someone with computer skillz can add a picture of the Sears Tower, or City Hall or the skyline or Mayor Daley.

What do you think?

Sincerely yours,


The Geek has “no comment.”

Orange Alert!: Winter Parking Ban Takes Effect 3AM Monday


I have the ability to see the future.

I looked into my crystal ball and predict that hundreds of cars will magically disappear all over Chicago streets under the cover of darkness of early Monday morning.

Hundreds of drivers will get up Monday morning, put on their coats and walk out to where there car was parked and find it missing. It will be like a vehicular rapture from the Book of Revelation.

These poor car-less souls will be shocked and confused. They will wail and grind their teeth. The will wander aimlessly around until they figure out their cars were towed because of the winter ban on overnight parking.

That’s right, at 3 AM early Monday morning, Chicago’s winter parking ban will take effect.

Historically, the winter parking bans resulted from several terrible winter storms, especially the Blizzard of ’67, when the snow was so deep, it was nearly impossible to clear the snow with all the cars parked on the main arterial roadways.

“We learned from past winter storms that there are several critical routes spanning the city that must be kept open at all times for emergency vehicles, buses and cars to get thorough,” stated Mike Picardi, Commissioner of Streets & Sanitation via departmental press release.

Map of Overnight Parking Restrictions from 3 AM – 7 AM, Dec. 1-Apr. 1

This ban effects major city arteries, 107 miles of roadway to be exact, where no parking is allowed overnight from 3 AM – 7 AM, no matter the weather.

IMPORTANT GEEK NOTE: Do NOT 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.

The tow will cost you $150 plus $10 a day storage fee and that’s on top of a $50 ticket.

Very much to their credit, according to Streets and Sanitation spokesperson Matt Smith, the department has made an effort to distribute fliers twice times during the past two weeks, along the entire route warning drivers of the impending ban date.

“The first time we placed a bright yellow information sheet in English and Spanish along the overnight routes,” said Smith. “The second time we placed a map of the enforcement area with an additional information sheet on the other side.”

This effort is in addition to getting the word out in the media and via the Streets & Sanitation website.

So you are really going to be struggling for a decent excuse if you screw up, forget and get towed Monday morning or anytime during the winter ban.

Here’s a map of the streets where the overnight parking bans are in effect, a full listing of those streets where overnight parking is restricted.

Check out our upcoming post on Snow Routes (2″ ban) that will go into mind numbing detail on this winter parking subject.

Tow Truck Blues

Anytime your vehicle interacts with a tow truck, you are probably not having a very good day.

In the case of the driver of the car that got towed in this video, your day was probably pretty damn bad.

The video was shot by Chicago author Patrys Destin.  He’s written a book about transportation entitled, Every Day I Am Road Rage.

Here’s the Amazon description of the book:

A driver cuts into my buddy’s lane causing him to miss the green traffic light. “You oughta write a book about this!” he tells me, after cursing out the perpetrators. “People out here don’t know how to drive!” An idea was born. Everyday, I Am Road Rage! is a book that is crazy serious (drunk driving, road rage, drive-thru service, Hurricane Katrina, funerals, profiling) and seriously crazy (parking lots, shopping carts, bridezilla, tow-zones, bass boomin’ and even driving prayers). Strap your seatbelts on as I take you on a wild ride about transportation, the people who work in it, the people you meet, and the attitudes in the middle. If you read something crazy that reminds you of yourself or someone you know, then it’s time to ask yourself, “Why do we act like that?” In the end, is it really worth fuming about? That’s a 10-4! Do you copy?

If anyone has read it, I would welcome your thoughts.

What NOT To Be Thankful For This Thanksgiving

Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune wrote Wednesday in anticipation of Thanksgiving, in what in essence is an anti-Thanksgiving column. One of his things NOT to be thankful for was:

• Red-light cameras at intersections. I can’t tell you how not thankful I am for those.

Me too Mr. Morrissey. Me too.

You can read Morrissey’s column in it’s entiriety here.

Orange Alert! Be Careful Parking Black Friday

Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is supposed to be a mandatory, unpaid day off for Chicago city employees.

Budget shortfalls have forced Mayor Daley to take drastic measures in cutting labor costs.

But, while the rest of the city is taking the day off, there are a few city departments which will still have people working, at least according to a source deep within the Department Revenue and confirmed by our pal Ticketmaster.

It’s not difficult to guess that parking enforcement employees will be on the street and ticketing the crap out of illegally parked vehicles. I’m sure the cost of paying Parking Enforcement Aides (PEA) to be out writing bright orange tickets is easily outweighed by the revenue the tickets will generate.

“That’s right, a portion of The Department of Revenue will be open on Black Friday,” confirmed Ticketmaster. ” According to highest levels of management: Parking Enforcement and Boot Release teams will be working on that day.”

It’s also my theory that ticketing is up dramatically on Black Friday. To be sure, I have no hard numbers. But it stands to reason that, with the hordes of ravenous nitwit zombie shoppers trying to find that elusive after-Thanksgiving bargin, a shortage of parking and patience, will cause normally rational drivers to park illegally.

Pair this situation, with additional parking enforcement manpower, and you get a blizzard of tickets.

So please be patient, take extra time and always find legal parking. If signs are confusing you, err on the side of caution and don’t park there. Feed your meters and don’t lose track of time and get an expired meter.

I think shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving is imbecilic. But I wouldn’t want anyone to let a parking ticket ruin anyone’s shopping enjoyment.

Happy Thanksgiving! You Don’t Have To Feed Your Meter!

Next to the 4th of July, Thanksgiving is second favorite holiday.

As bad as things seem to be economically in our nation, we still have much to be thankful for.  I think it’s a very patriotic holiday and we owe a lot of thanks to God (or whatever higher power you believe in), for being fortunate to live in the greatest country in the history of the planet.

When you combine patriotism with a feast of delicious food, it’s a sure-fire winner of a holiday.

Mayor Daley likes this holiday too. So even though today is Thursday, it’s a parking meter holiday and you don’t have to feed the parking meter you are parked at. Woo-Hoo!!!

Please, enjoy the blessing of this country today. Eat, drink, watch some football, take a nap and spend some time with your family.

God Bless America!

The city has only 6 parking meter holidays a year. Here is the full list.

*New Year’s Day

*Memorial Day

*Independence Day

*Labor Day

*Thanksgiving Day

*Christmas Day

If you don’t believe me, here’s the link for the City of Chicago Parking Meter Holidays.

The Geek In Time Out Chicago

Your esteemed, but yet mysteriously, intellectually challenged Parking Ticket Geek, makes a brief appearance in this week’s installment of Time Out Chicago magazine.

Writer John Greenfield spent some time on the phone with the Geek discussing the city’s recent plans for converting all 4000 park district parking spots into paid spots and the ongoing saga of the 2nd Ward’s new 1250 parking meters in the smack dab in the middle of nowhere.

It’s a nice piece of journalism. And the photos really capture the honest desolation of where these parking meters were installed. Greenfield’s article astutely questions why the hell the city would install parking meters where no cars are actually around to be parked?

Pick it up at any decent newsstand or better yet, subscribe. It’s really the best publication in the city for knowing what the heck is going on around Chicago.

Winter Parking Ban Right Around The Corner


Monday is December 1st.

At exactly 3 AM, on Monday, the city’s Winter Parking Ban  begins.

There are exatly 107 miles of “critical arterial” city streets you are not allowed to park from Dec. 1 – April 1 from 3 AM – 7 AM–regardless of whether there is snow on the ground.

That’s just a friendly heads up from The Expired Meter.

We’ll have a much more comprehensive article on winter parking in a day or two.

In the meantime, here’s a Winter Parking Ban press release from the city.

Red Light Cameras Help With Amber Alerts In Oak Forest

As much as I loathe red light cameras, a red light camera manufacturer has developed an amazing feature that may assist in stopping child abductions.

Gatso USA, which was awarded the red light camera contract for five intersections a year ago in suburban Oak Forest, tested their new amber alert system in that suburb recently with allegedly impressive results.

This system, when activated, can in real time, scan license plates of vehicles passing through the camera enhanced intersections and then alert law enforcement if the vehicle in question is located.

The obvious benefit is that abducted children can potentially be located faster using this technology.

If we could use red light cameras to catch child kidnappers instead of drivers going through a red light by mistake, I would be all for them.

Here’s the press release from Gatso.

GATSO USA Introduces Industry’s First AMBER Alert Photo Enforcement Camera — Helping Police Stop Child Abductions

Camera’s AMBER Alert Feature Can Drastically Increase Chances of Locating Abducted Children During Crucial First Minutes of Search

BEVERLY, MA–(Marketwire – November 24, 2008) – Gatso USA, a leading photo enforcement systems provider, announced today that after one year of development, testing and customer evaluation, its flagship GS11 red light and speed camera now carries an AMBER Alert feature that can help ensure the safety of abducted children by decreasing law enforcement’s response time in locating suspected criminals. The AMBER Alert Program is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement, broadcasters, and transportation agencies to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases.

The camera’s AMBER Alert feature enables police departments to search in real time for wanted or suspect vehicles at intersections or locations within a city’s network of compatible red light or speed photo enforcement cameras. When a suspect vehicle passes a camera location, the camera immediately reports the information back to the police department.

In a recent evaluation of Gatso USA’s GS11 AMBER Alert capability conducted in a south suburb of Chicago, Deputy Chief David DeMarco of the Oak Forest Police Department, the chief coordinator of the evaluation, stated, “I was amazed. Within 20 seconds of passing a camera location, we were notified in the field with a message and a photo that my car was detected at the camera location when the AMBER Alert feature was activated. It’s a priceless tool for law enforcement when looking for a suspect vehicle involved in an abduction or serious crime. We consider the evaluation to be highly successful.”

The evaluation was coordinated after the city of Oak Forest installed several of Gatso’s GS11 red light photo enforcement solutions for designated intersections within the city. The city of Oak Forest conducted an extensive evaluation of five red light camera photo enforcement solutions and selected Gatso based on product performance as well as the beneficial cost structure provided, which does not require any capital expenditure from the City or the police department.

“We are excited about the value that our AMBER Alert capability provides to law enforcement in helping to save children’s lives by immediately locating a suspect vehicle involved in child abductions and other serious crimes,” said Andrew Noble, President of Gatso USA.

Nearby cities of Hanover Park and Streamwood, Illinois will also have their Gatso red light cameras enabled with the AMBER Alert feature, linking the two cities for a broader detection area.

About Gatso

For more than 50 years Gatso has been providing world-class photo enforcement systems to law enforcement and transportation agencies at the federal, state and local levels. Spanning 60 countries and 45,000 camera installations, Gatso continues to be the pioneer in leading edge traffic enforcement systems. Earning vast government technical approvals, globally, Gatso has set the standard in the US market by providing the first digital traffic camera to the market in 1998 through to introducing unprecedented AMBER Alert capabilities in 2008.

Gatso USA is headquartered in Beverly, Massachusetts with offices in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio. For additional information please visit our website

Chicago City Stickers Going To The Dogs In 2009

In 2009, Chicago city stickers are going to the dogs.

That’s because dogs are the theme for the annual city sticker design contest coordinated by the City Clerk to determine what the 2009-2010 city sticker will be. You can vote online at the City Clerk’s website or, in person at City Hall in the clerk’s office at 121 N. LaSalle St, room 107.

After reviewing over 300 entries from high school students from 43 high schools, the clerk’s office has narrowed the field to 10 finalists.

The first place winner gets a cool grand via a $1000 savings bond and their doggy design on 1.3 million Chicago city stickers, stuck to the windshield of cars all over the city. Second place gets a $500 bond, third gets a bond worth $250 and the remaining seven finalists get a $100 bond.

So, in the true spirit of dog eat dog Chicago politics,  go ahead and vote early and often. You only have until Wednesday at 5 PM before the polls close.