Monthly Archives: June 2009

Last Day To Get City Sticker, But Then Again, Not Really

Pay attention procrastinators!

Your 2008-2009 Chicago city vehicle sticker expires today.

Yes, say a tearful goodbye to last year’s orange sticker with the bicycle safety theme.

June 30th is officially the deadline to obtain your 2009-2010 Chicago city vehicle sticker, as required of all vehicles registered with a Chicago address.

However, despite last year’s city sticker expiring today, in truth, you still have time to obtain your new 2009-2010 city sticker.

That’s because the city gives you a 15-day grace period to obtain your 2009-2010 city sticker.

In other words, until July 15th. City sticker enforcement officially begins July 16th.

Despite the June 30th deadline, city sticker procrastinators still have several options open to them to remedy their sticker-less situation.

Order On-Line

This website, along with the Chicago City Clerk’s office strongly recommend you order online via the City Clerk’s website. It’s fast, easy and a much better route than your next option.

In fact, City Clerk Information Coordinator Kristine Williams says if you place your order on-line by Friday, July 3rd, you will have your city sticker in your hot, sweaty hands before July 15th.

“We are telling people to order their sticker by this weekend to help ensure delivery by July 15,” says Williams. “…we ask for 10 – 14 business days to receive a sticker.  If they order it online or by the mail and it is July 14 or 15 and they still haven’t received the sticker, they should contact our office at 312-742-9200 and we will help them with next steps, which may include issuing a temporary 30 day
sticker.”

Wait In Line

We believe waiting in line for 30-90 minutes for anything is stupid. Not only that, it’s a waste of your time, is painful and sucks the soul from your very being. Don’t do it.

But, we understand some people are just masochists. So, if you really feel the need to stand in line to get your city sticker, you have several options.

There are three Office of the City Clerk facilities you can go to in person. Of course, there is the main one in City Hall, but two others, one at 5430 W. Gale St. on the northwest side, and at 5674 S. Archer Ave., on the southside. Here is the detailed list of locations and hours of operation.

In addition, there are four Department of Revenue Substations you can waste your time in line at:

• 4770 S. Kedzie Boulevard
• 2006 E. 95th Street
• 2550 W. Addison Street
• 400 W. Superior Street

Here is the information on the four DOR locations along with hours of operation.

Reports of the longest lines are coming from the DOR offices.

Community Vendors

There are many other places you can purchase your 2009-2010 city vehicle stickers, which may be a more intelligent option than DOR and City Clerk offices.

These include some banks, many Dominick’s Finer Food stores and nearly every single Currency Exchange in the entire Chicagoland area, including the suburbs.

Here’s the official list of all participating vendors, or search for your neighborhood Currency Exchange here.

For a small fee of $5.50, you can get your city sticker quickly and with virtually no, or minimal wait times. $5.50 is many cases is well worth it if you need your city sticker right away and/or can’t spare the time to wait in line at a city facility.

Tune in tomorrow for a special all city sticker, Ask The Parking Ticket Geek column.

Friendly Reminders From A Parking Enforcement Aide

Parking Enforcement Aides (PEAs) are the city employees who tirelessly patrol the streets of Chicago,  writing out those bright orange tickets we all love to hate.

But today, we have long time contributor and a great friend to the website, PEA Ticketmaster, with some seriously great, timely reminders and advice for readers on how to avoid getting a parking ticket.

So, I cannot stress this enough, if Ticketmaster says something, LISTEN UP!!!

Hello PTG and Everyone,

Just wanted to offer some friendly reminders to your readers:

1. Tuesday is June 30th, that means on Wednesday July 1st we will be ticketing vehicles with license plates with June 2009 expiration dates. There is no “15 day grace period” on license plates (like there is with city stickers).

2. July 15th (the last day of the city sticker grace period) is coming real fast, so make sure to get purchase your city sticker and residential permits by that date.

3. If you have any of the orange visitor passes left, throw a party, have some friends come over, because on July 16th they will expire, and only the new blue ones will be honored.

Basically: Use them or lose them.

4. Remember, your city sticker actually has to be affixed to your window. Placing your sticker on a plastic sheet or encasing in some sort of shield, tape, casing and attaching it to the windshield does not count, and you can be ticketed.

5. Most important of all: If you have purchased your sticker, please actually put it on. It does no good sitting in your wallet, purse, glove box, on the night stand, or wherever you choose to keep it.

On July 16th, if we don’t see that sticker affixed to the window, we will ticket your vehicle and the ticket will include photos of the violation. You then get to have the honor of explaining to a hearing officer, if you purchased the sticker, why you didn’t put it on the windshield.

Kind Regards

Ticketmaster

Thanks to Ticketmaster for the head’s up. GREAT advice!

If you still need to renew your Illinois license plates by the end of the month, either hit a Secretary of State location or run into your neighborhood Currency Exchange. It will cost an extra $5 or so at the Currency Exchange, but it may be worth it.

If you still need to get your city sticker, you still have time to purchase it online and get it mailed to you before the end of the July 15th grace period. Or if you enjoy pain, you can wait in line for hours at a city payment facility to get your city sticker.

If you want your city sticker right away, with little or no waiting, again checkout your local Currency Exchange.

Local Columnist Defends Higher Meter Rates

Longtime Chicago writer and opinions columnist Dennis Byrne has some strong thoughts about the increased parking meter rates. He thinks most of us are a bunch of crybabies.

While, I don’t agree with Mr. Byrne on this issue, I’ve admired his work for years and tend to agree with him generally as we seem to share many of the same political views.

He was kind enough to allow The Expired Meter to reprint his column which originally appeared at the Chicago Daily Observer.

In Defense of High Parking Meter Rates

Hold on a second; where does it say that you’re entitled to park cheaply on a public street?

You’re not, but that’s the assumption behind all the crabbing about the city’s “obscene” increase in parking meter rates. Put aside questions about the competence of the company now running the meters and whether Mayor Richard M. Daley could have squeezed another billion or so out of the company for the 75-year lease. Also, put aside how badly the company has bollixed the job and questions about whether it was a sweetheart deal.

That’s a lot to put aside, but if your gripe is about what it now costs to park on a street in Chicago, then you’ve lost me. I had thought from the decibel level that you were being asked for an arm and a leg, but then I looked at the rates. In neighborhoods, it used to cost just a quarter an hour; now will cost a buck and by 2013 jump to two bucks. Top rates in the Loop will rocket to—gasp!–$3.50 an hour, from $3, still a bargain compared with parking garage rates. The Loop rate will go to $6.50 in 2013, which, I suspect, still will be a bargain.

All of which are the basis for headlines screaming, “Parking will cost four times as much!” “Meter rates are the last straw!” “Citizens’ revolt brewing!” “Not even the Hired Truck scandal has drawn as much ire!”

Boo hoo. If you ask me, the rates should be higher.

It’s called the law of supply and demand, which says it is reasonable to expect that prices will reflect the level of demand for a commodity, in this case street parking. You circle the block in an endless quest for a parking place because the demand has outstripped supply, leading to the logical outcome of higher prices. If the prices rise too high, then you’ll be able to find more parking spots opening up, lucky you. And if it turns out that there are too many empty places because of lax demand, then prices reasonably should fall too.

Here the objection will be raised that the parking company can nick us for anything it wants to because “we don’t have any alternatives.” Oh, stop. We keep hearing from urbanologists that driving (and by extension, parking) is bad. Bad for the environment, bad use of land, bad use of energy. So, if driving has imposed such large social costs, then the privilege of temporarily storing your vehicle in a convenient spot on a public way should come at a premium. If you don’t want to pay those extra six bits to park, take public transportation. Drive less frequently. Car pool. Combine errands. Bike. Walk.

Here’s another way to look at it: It’s an effective tax on suburbanites and out-of-towners (the later being the favorite target of city hotel taxes, etc.) This is a levy that doesn’t fall exclusively on Chicagoans as, say, property taxes do. If somebody wants to drive in from Schaumburg, polluting the air and using extra gasoline, then the higher parking fee is the penalty to be paid for the social costs incurred.

Speaking of suburbs, we are instructed that they’re a waste of space, money and energy because they have backyards and other land gobblers, are the provinces of anomie and isolation, and so forth. Cities are better, we’re told, because, among other things, of their densities, sensible use of land, economies of scale, and so forth.

If that’s so—and who am I as a suburbanite to argue the point—then it seems to me that the price of a parking spot, just like the price of land on which sits an office, apartment building or store, should reflect its value. If high densities are so great, then paying for the consequences of those densities isn’t unfair. It’s what you should expect.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Dennis Byrne has spent the majority of his professional career as a journalist and writer, spending time at the Chicago Daily News and the Chicago Sun-Times. He currently is a freelance writer and consultant, contributes to the Chicago Daily Observer and writes a weekly op-ed piece for the Chicago Tribune.

Check out Mr. Byrne’s blog, The Barbershop, to keep up with all his current writings.

The Geek’s Weekend Traffic & Parking Hot Spot Guide 6/27-6/28

It’s another busy weekend of street festivals, which of course means street closures, traffic backups and parking headaches.

The Parking Ticket Geek has the lowdown on weekend events, street closures and parking advice.

In some regards, it’s a pretty easy weekend in regards to events, street closures and weekend traffic.

It’s a bit of a respite before next weekend’s hellish Fourth of July weekend traffic.

So, there are only two events worth mentioning.

Unfortunately, they’re both doozies.

EVENT: Taste of Chicago

WHERE: Grant Park

CLOSURES: Columbus Drive, from Balbo on the south to Randolph on the north, and Congress from Michigan to Lake Shore Drive.

It’s 16 days of Windy City gluttony right on the lakefront of beautiful Chicago. It’s a wonderful event for tourists who are more apt to have a higher threshold for pain. If you like paying a lot for small portions of food, the claustaphobic joy of rubbing up against an infinite number of sweaty, overweight suburbanites and skyline gawking rubes from outside the metropolitan area, you’ll love Taste of Chicago.

The food may be great, but is it really worth having to take public transportation or pay for astronomically high parking? I guess that is up to you. I say avoid driving downtown around that area until the Taste is over.

EVENT: Gay Pride Fest and  Gay Pride Parade (Sunday only)

WHERE: Boystown.

CLOSURES: Halsted from Addison to Roscoe on Friday and Saturday.

For the parade on Sunday, Halsted and Broadway between Diversey & Addison; severe delays along Belmont from Lake Shore Dr. to Ashland.

Look, unless you’re a homosexual or a gay groupie, do yourself a favor and avoid Boystown and Lakeview this weekend and especially on Sunday. Traffic along Belmont and Addison Sunday, will be screwed up as the parade crosses these main thoroughfares twice at both Halsted and Broadway.

For extra detailed street closure and parade info, go to the official Chicago Gay Pride Parade website.

Yeah, it’s interesting to go to the Gay Pride Parade and party with your gay friends. Sure, everyone gets a kick out of the Dykes on Bikes, the extreme drag queens, the pounding, loud gay disco, and the gay drill core. Others, like myself, are made a bit uncomfortable by the muscled Speedo clad boys or topless lesbians whom, honestly are better viewed with clothing.

But, it is 2009, do we really even need a Gay Pride Parade anymore? Does anyone really give a crap if someone is a homosexual these days? Personally, I say scrap the parade, head over to Sidetrack for a martini and some show tunes, and not screwup traffic.

Of course, parking is already a nightmare over there. Take public transportation, or park west of the action on side streets (but watch for residential parking restrictions) and walk over to the parade. Drive over early if you can.

Drive safe everyone.

Photo courtesy and copyright Macsurak’s Flickr page. He shoots some very nice stuff.

City To Plunder Parking Meter Rainy Day Fund

No one could see this coming.

Can you see the look of abject surprise on my face? Don’t confuse this look with either boredom or sleepiness or apathy. I always look this way when something shocks me like when the Daley Administration says they have to dip into the $320 million, rainy day fund established when the city got their $1.15 billion for leasing the parking meters.

Can you believe it?

The city can’t balance the budget. There’s a budget shortfall. Wow. I’ve been jolted into a coma.

Clout Street has all the details from Friday afternoon.

A More Humorous Form Of Meter Protest

A reader of that great website Chicagoist, covering all things Chicago, spotted this very funny decal slapped onto the side of a meter up in Rogers Park.

Check it out.

Thanks to Chicagoist Publisher Marcus Gilmer for the heads up and letting us run the graphic.

3 Stars For New Parking Meter Report

The piling on is getting brutal.

For a multitude of reasons, the parking meter lease deal is the story that will not die.

Initially, a relentless flurry of negative press from the local and then national media, including a few hard hitting, in-depth investigative pieces from the Chicago Reader in three parts, FAIL, FAIL Part 2, and FAIL Part 3.

Then, a few weeks ago, the Inspector General issued a damning report on the lease.

Tuesday, the Active Transportation Alliance, released a report condemning Chicago’s parking meter lease deal for most of the same, but also for issues that have not been raised thus far.

Of course, the city officials have issues with the report and in some cases, understandably some very contrary views. To me, it’s like an episode of the X-Files. The truth is out there. Somewhere.

Brian Steele, spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Transportation felt there are some problems with Active Trans’ conclusions.

“No,” Steele said tersely when asked if he agreed with the report. “The report has a myriad of innaccuries, assumptions and facutal errors.”

Understand, the mission of Active Transportation Alliance, (or Active Trans) is to promote bicycling, walking and public transportation to such a degree that “50% of all regional trips are made by bicycling, walking or transit…” The organization used to call itself the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation. So, Active Trans’ position is not anti-automobile, but it would not be unfair to say it would like to see a drastic reduction in automobile travel in Chicago.

The report lays down a foundational theory that “underpriced curb parking is a hidden source of traffic congestion and stimulates the most inefficient form of urban transportation.” In other words, motorists don’t usually pay what they should pay for metered parking.

The report summarizes the deal and the bloody details on how the deal went down, demonstrating that lease was pushed through, in the opinion of the writers, only for the financial upside to the city, with no regard for the consequences to the future of transportation and urban planning for Chicago.

Active Trans’ report believes that by selling off the meters, Chicago now loses the ability to use meter revenue, which they believe should  to improve transportation infrastructure initially concludes “As a result (of selling off the meters), planners and neighborhoods have lost control over one of their most powerful urban planning and revenue generating tools.”

In reality, at least according to a written response from the City of Chicago, ”net revenue from the parking meter system historically did not fund these specifict items, but rather was part of the general corporate fund revenue stream.”

The report claims:

So while the city technically retains control over these spaces, any move to remove or adjust parking will financially penalize the City. This means that every potential project on a street with meters, including bus rapid transit, bicycle lanes, sidewalk expansion, streetscaping, pedestrian bulb-outs, loading zones, rush hour parking control, mid block crossing, and temporary open spaces are dictated, controlled and limited by parking meters.

These restrictions severely limit innovative planning for bicyclists, pedestrian and transit users.

“This is absolutely untrue,” says Steele. “The city always has, and always will have control of the public way.”

Active Trans’ conclusion does seem a bit hyperbolic on this point, however the new parking meter lease will have some sort of effect on all the scenarios listed above. The thing is, in most cases because this deal is so fresh, know one knows exactly how all these situations will play out.  The truth is most likely somewhere between Active Trans’ conclusions and the City’s view on the issue.

Active Trans is also a big supporter of rush hour bus lanes. So it’s not a surprise that the report’s writers feel this alleged loss of control of the public way is going to impact the future of policies that promote rush hour bus lanes.

“The loss of the potential for bus rapid transit on most streets over the next 75 years is one of the most disappointing losses from the term of the lease…the cost of removing parking or placing rush hour parking controls over the length of a potential route such as Western Avenue would be staggering.”

The city weakly disputes this point by saying the “The costs, if staggering, would have been equally staggering prior to the transaction.”

Once again, both flirt with opposite extremes of the the truth. But the difference now is that pre-lease agreement, the city would only be giving up potential revenue. But now, post-lease agreement, if rush hour bus lanes were installed along portions of Western Ave., most likely the city would have to come out of pocket and reimburse Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, cold, hard cash at inflated rates, per the new lease agreement.

The report’s writers also come to the conclusion:

“This agreement makes it impossible for the City to test any new hourly meter rates for price elasticity of demand, a measure of how consumers react to a change in price. That is limiting because the right price for parking is intricate: the ideal hourly rate for parking (where spots are 85% full, and drivers can alwaysfind a parking spot), might vary depending on exact location, residential/commercial mix, time of day
and nearby events.”

The city, again in their printed retort, says this is false, stating, “The city has retained full control over rate setting. Further, the transaction has actually enabled the City to test new hourly meter rates because the new meter technology provides real time utilization information.”

Again, the truth is somewhere in between the two views. The municipal code allows for adjustments of meter pricing via alderman within their wards and ultimately by approval within the City Council.

But if the city’s claim is true in regards to price elasticity and new meter technology, why haven’t price changes been initiated on the hundreds of metered blocks in the city where motorists have virtually stopped parking?

Despite its’ problems with the lease deal, the Active Trans report does offer some suggestions including implementing market rate curb pricing, use curb revenue to reinvest in transportation choices in suburban areas and invest in bicylcling, walking and transit.

Overall the Geek gives Active Trans’ report 3 stars.

Here’s the report, read it yourself: Unrealized Assets: How leasing control of parking meters limits the future of active transport and innovative urban planning.

Listen To The Geek & Garry Podcast

The Geek had the distinct honor of joining Chicago radio legend Garry Meier on WGN Radio 720 on Monday afternoon.

If you missed it, here’s the Geek & Garry podcast.

I was kind of nervous, as I’ve been a fan of Meier since I was a wee Geek.

Luckily, I didn’t totally suck.

Thanks again to Garry for allowing a nutbag like the Parking Ticket Geek on his airwaves and allow me to pimp the new ChicagoNow website.

South Chicago Meter Protest, Sit In Update

Despite temperatures in the 90′s, protesters are still standing, sitting and marching strong in 8800 block of S. Commercial Ave. in the South Chicago neighborhood.

“We’ve been out here all day again, kind of like guarding the center,” said Robert Garcia from the Centro Comunitario Juan Diego. “Someone had seen a (LAZ crew) truck pass again earlier and then make a u-turn down the block then leave.”

Protesters feel their presence in front of the installation site of that new paybox is deterring the new Pay & Display units from going in.

“That’s what everyone is saying,” says CCJD Director of Communications Stephanie Puente. “We feel we’re keeping them away. We saw a (LAZ) truck come between 8 and 8:30 this morning and it stopped, saw we were still here and backed off. ”

But Avis Lavelle, spokesperson for Chicago Parking Meters, LLC doesn’t believe there’s a connection between the sit in and the delay in these meter payboxes being installed.

“There was a meeting between the Alderman (Ald. Pope), the Chamber, the meter company and the city to address some of the issues,” explained Lavelle. “There were some things the Alderman wanted to address and some adjustments are being made.”

Lavelle elaborated saying, as example, there is at least one church along S. Commercial, and the two hour limit may be prohibitive to worshippers on Sundays. In addition, according to Lavelle, all parties want to make sure all the signs, machines and labels are in sync, so there’s no confusion.

“The Alderman wants to be mindful of the needs of the community on a case by case basis,” said Lavelle.

The sit in is tentatively going to continue through the weekend and perhaps longer according to Garcia and Puented.

On Tuesday evening, Garcia reported about 60 people showed up for the second “Stop The Meters” protest, marching in front of the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce and then at the local library branch where a meeting on charter schools, sponsored by the local chamber of commerce, was being held.

Long Lines At Addison St. Revenue Center

Since Chicago city vehicle stickers went on sale on June 1st, lines at the Dept. of Revenue Payment & Hearing Center, located at 2550 W. Addison have been stretching out the door.

Waiting times for any services, including paying tickets and ticket hearings, according to reader Rob. G are running 30-60 minutes. Other reports had times nearing 90 minutes.

As the June 30th city sticker deadline gets closer and closer, lines will get even worse.

Look, everyone looking to get their new Chicago city sticker, there’s this thing called the Internet. Even my grandmother has heard of it.

Just go to the Chicago City Clerk’s website, order online. It takes about 10-15 minutes. You can do it from home or work or a Kinko’s. A week or so later, the mailman brings you your new sticker.

No lines. No wait. You even get to sit in a comfortable chair and enjoy the modern luxury of air conditioning.

You’ll be doing yourself and everyone else a big favor.

Thanks to Rob G for the tip and the great photo.