Monthly Archives: July 2009

Caught In The Act…Again

It’s been a long time since we’ve heard from Damien, this site’s official pizza delivery correspondent. He sent us the photo catching our friends from the Department of Revenue, with their pants down again.

“I was delivering a two pizzas over at the intersection of Ashland/Division/Milwaukee on Wednesday, and saw this DOR van parked illegally,” said Damien in his e-mail. “The funny thing was that there were open metered spaces just ahead of where this goof parked. It’s not like this guy was putting a boot on a car or anything, it looked like he was doing some shopping to me.”

Damien, having been ticketed many times over the years, when parked illegally in the course of his pizza delivery career, was a little perturbed when he saw this flagrant violation of the municipal code by the same department that issues parking tickets for the city.

“Geek, do you have any connections with DOR, where you can hook me up with a ticket book?”, asked Damien. “I can help the city out with their budget deficit just writing tickets on illegally parked city vehicles. I could fill the budget debt in a few months.”

Great idea Damien! It would be like a citizen’s arrest or the like

Here are previous illegally parked DOR vehicle photo #1, photo #2 , photo#3, photo#4, photo#5 and photo#6.

If you see a Dept. of Revenue vehicle parked illegally and snap a photo, send it to The Expired Meter and we’ll publish it.

Please e-mail your photos to: tips@theexpiredmeter.com

Red Light Camera 101: Do License Plate Sprays Actually Work?

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a weekly series on avoiding red light tickets here in Chicago–soon to be the red light camera capital of the world.

In the war against red light cameras, specialty aerosol sprays to coat your license plate was the initial skirmish of this long battle.

According to reports, many, if not most, red light cameras employ a very strong flash to photograph your license plate. Based on that theory, when sprayed on your license plate, these high-gloss sprays reflects the camera’s flash back toward the camera, overexposing the photo and thus, and theoretically, making your license plate unreadable to the camera.

The original anti-red light camera spray, Photostopper was created in an effort to defeat the red light camera’s ability to document vehicle license plate numbers. It costs $19.95 per can, and can cover six plates according to the sales information.

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Another product is called Photo Fog, and comes in a spray pump. It claims to perform in the same way as these other aerosol sprays and sells for $23.00 per bottle.

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While Photostopper claims to be the first, PhotoBlocker spray, created in 2002, seems to be the dominant product in this product category.

Phantom Plate, the manufacturer of PhotoBlocker, is based in Harrisburg, PA, and produces several different anti-red light camera products. We will explore many of these other products in during the course of this series.

The spray costs $29.95 per can and can cover four plates. There are lot’s of testimonials and information at the PhotoBlocker website.

There doesn’t seem to be any consensus on whether these sprays work or not. There are testimonials provided by Phantom Plate, and news reports claiming it does work. On-Track, the manufacturer of Photostopper and Photo Fog also has a quiver of media reviews. But red light camera manufacturers and police enforcement, along with other news reports say this strategy does not work.

“We have had NO issues with reflective sprays,” laughed Brian Steele, spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Transportation.

Steele says these sprays don’t work on Chicago cameras because the flashes are mounted at angles, so the flash does not hit the car’s license plate head-on so this blinding effect the spray is supposed to inflict upon the camera, does not occur.

“I’ve never heard that before,” said a surprised Joe Scott, Marketing Director for PhotoBlocker, in respect to the way the flashes are angled. “It’s still a bright flash of light no matter where it comes from.”

“We’re not really concerned whether it (sprays) work or not,” says Jennifer Martinez, spokesperson for Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC). “We don’t have an opinion either way. Our issue is safety and making sure people stop at red lights. Our vendor has done some testing and they say it (spray) doesn’t work.

“Of course they’re going to say that (the spray doesn’t work),” continued Scott. “We have 500,000 satisfied customers in the United States and internationally.”

The cops and the camera manufacturers say that their technology has improved with a higher and faster samplings of frames being shot, so the camera, if it is blinded for a milli-second, can still view the license plate before or after the flash.

Mr. Steele says that the cameras not only take two still photographs (an initial photo when the red light is blown and another 1.2 seconds later), but also takes video of the vehicle and event.

Although, the spray has been tested with some speed camera units and, according to one TV news report, seems to work well.

So, who really knows. Obviously the jury is out on this one. I’ve never tried it and I’m mildly skeptical of how well the spray concept works here in Chicago. My strategy has been to not blow through stop lights anymore and that has seemed to be working well for me.

I guess the only way to really know is to buy PhotoBlocker or Photostopper, spray it on and then blow through a few intersections with red light cameras and see what happens. Perhaps we should put a fund together to reimburse someone to buy the spray and run a few red lights.

The only other spray I’ve seen is something called Sprayonmud. It was allegedly developed for people to easily make their SUV look like it’s been actually four-wheeling out in the hinterlands, without going through the effort of doing so. A secondary use has been to spray the product on the back of your vehicle, making it look like you “accidentally” partially covered your license plate in mud. Therefore, red light cameras couldn’t record your full license plate number if you went through a red light and therefore, wouldn’t receive a ticket. Obviously, covering or obscuring your license plate is illegal.

However, the Sprayonmud website is down and I can’t seem to find it for sale anywhere and get the feeling the company is defunct.

But, here’s a story from Wired Magazine on the product: Spray-On Mud Makes A Splash.

So, when it comes to license plate sprays, my advice is caveat emptor, it might be best to save your money and just don’t blow through the red light.

Happy Birthday Denver Boot!

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Frank Marugg was a musician. A violinist with the Denver Symphony Orchestra.

He must have been a renaissance man of sorts. Because not only was he was an accomplished professional musician, but also a pattern maker.

But perhaps Marugg’s greatest contribution to society (if one could call it that), the thing he will be remembered for, cursed for, and the bane of parking ticket scofflaws everywhere, is the Denver Boot.

Yesterday, July 28, 2009, was the 51th Anniversary issue date of the patent for Marugg’s patent evil contraption.

Patent #2844354 for the Wheel Clamp was issued today, July 28, 1958.

It seems that Marugg had some friends in the Denver Sheriff’s Department, who were aware of his skills as an inventor. The department approached Marugg with their problem of scofflaws who had become inattentive to the city’s pleas to pay up on their tickets. So Marugg and the Sheriff at the time, came up with the idea for a device to immobilize vehicles, and open up the wallets of the vehicle owners.

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Although history shows Marugg invented the boot in 1953, he didn’t apply for a patent for his vehicle immobilizing device until May 7, 1955, taking over three years to see it actually patented.

What has always puzzled me is that Marugg was supposed to be a well-liked, really nice guy. How he successfully hid the horns on his head and the 666 burned into his scalp his entire lifetime is shocking. Of course, I jest.

But seriously, one wonders if Marugg knew the dismay and rage his invention would cause to millions of people around the world and, especially here in Chicago, where we have the lowest threshold (two unpaid tickets) for vehicle immobilization in the nation.

Marugg ran his company selling Denver Boots until he passed away, and his daughter eventually sold the company to Clancy Systems.

Now there are many companies manufacturing these accursed vehicle immobilizing boots. All owe their existence to Marugg’s original Wheel Clamp, Patent #2844354.

Meter Protesters March On City Hall

Echoing throughout the canyon of buildings along either side of La Salle St., where the chants of “No more meters!”, and “Parking meters no, Chicago yes!” around lunch time today, when protesters marched in front of the entrance to City Hall.

Armed with signs and banners, and wearing hand decorated T-shirts with anti-meter messages, the 80-100 people protesting meter privatization and rates hikes, marched in front of the La Salle entrance to City Hall for about an hour.

The protest was organized by three groups, including the People’s Parking Meter Campaign an offshoot of ANSWER Chicago, South Chicago’s Centro Communitario Juan Diego (CCJD) and anti-Olympics group, No Games Chicago.

“It’s a great turnout,” said Tom Tresser the head of No Games Chicago, who believes potential 2016 Olympic games in Chicago, is similar to the parking meter lease deal. “We’re all in this together. It’s all privatization. Chicago would be turning over tax dollars and property to a Swiss corporation,” explained Tresser of the possibility of the Olympics coming here.

The signs and banners carried a myriad of messages, but all essentially focusing on the meter lease deal. The signs blared such things as “No More Parking Meters,” ” Better Schools-No Olympic Games”, “Stop Parking Meter Rate Hikes,” and “No Mas Parquimetros.

“It’s a good turnout,” said Robert Garcia from CCJD. “We could have had more people. We wanted to bring another bus load (of people).”

During the course of the protest, cars and taxis driving by, would periodically honk their horns excitedly showing support for the crowd, which in turn made the crowd of protesters cheer in reply.

“That’s been happening the entire morning,” said Garcia turning his head toward the honking drivers and gesturing at the curious pedestrians stopping to get information fliers. “People are realizing we can fight back. People think the parking meter contract is done and can’t do anything about it. But by people speaking out we can make a difference.”

Other bystanders didn’t understand why all the fuss.

“It’s seems ridiculous to me,” said a bystander watching the action. “I’m in total agreement, that the parking meter privatization is an outrage. It’s an annoyance, but it (this issue) doesn’t seem to deserve the focus of attention right now with everything else going on in the world.”

Asked if he thought the City Council members, in full session today for the month of July, heard their chants, Garcia said, “I hope so. I know they knew we were out here. Whether they react is a different story.”

Currently, according to Garcia, there are no hard dates for a future protest, but believes there will be more similar protests soon

Lunch At City Hall For Meter Protest March

Peanut butter on white.

Jay’s potato chips.

Juice box.

Bing cherries.

Camera.

That’s what I have in my lunch bag.

I’ve decided to spend my lunch break downtown at City Hall.

I hear there’s some free entertainment. From what I hear, there’s a parking meter protest going on.

Supposedly, a few hundred people are going to show up.

Since things are supposed to start at 11:30, I’m going to try to get down there sometime after 11 AM.

Bring your lunch and meet me on the La Salle side of City Hall to catch all the action.

Few things are more appetizing than democracy in action.

ALERT!: Another Cub’s Night Game Tonight

Another night game versus the Houston Astros.

7:05 start,

You know the drill. Lots of traffic. If you aren’t a resident, you could get towed.

Let’s get #2 from the Astros.

Parking Meter Protest Planned For City Hall

Protestors march in front of Ald. Pope's office back in June

Protestors march in front of Ald. Pope's office back in June

There have been a few protests on the far southeast side of the city, and a petition drive out of the northside.

But surprisingly enough, despite the public hue and cry over the parking meter lease deal, there have been no parking meter protests at City Hall.

That changes at this Wednesday’s City Council meeting, when an anti-meter protest march will take place at 11:30 AM at City Hall

The protest is jointly organized by the People’s Parking Meter Campaign an offshoot of ANSWER Chicago, South Chicago’s Centro Communitario Juan Diego (CCJD) and anti-Olympics group, No Games Chicago. All three groups that have been highly critical of Chicago’s parking meter lease deal which was signed in December, 2008.

“We want to bring it right to Mayor Daley’s face,” says Marta Perea, Family Literacy Coordinator for CCJD of the City Hall protest.

The People’s Parking Meter Campaign, recently began a petition drive to promote rescinding the parking meter lease deal, roll back meter price increases, and place a moratorium on adding any new pay boxes to the city’s parking meter system. According to ANSWER Chicago’s John Beacham, utilizing a “couple dozen volunteers,” the group has collected over 2000 petition signatures.

“We want to make as big of an impression as possible, not only on the City Council, but on the people of Chicago,” says Beacham on his goals for Wednesday’s protest. “We’re expecting anywhere from 100 to a few hundred, which would be a large turnout on a weekday at 11:30 AM.”

“I think it’s good other people from the city are starting to make their voices be heard,” said Robert Garcia from the CCJD. “The parking meters impact everyone in Chicago. Whether you’re wealthy or poor or where you are form in the city–it effects everyone.”

Centro Communitario Juan Diego, located in the South Chicago neighborhood, has staged three anti-meter protests in their southeast side neighborhood including one in front of 10th Ward Alderman Pope’s offices, another in front of the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce and their most recent protest march outside of Ald. Pope’s home.

The group also is actively engaged in an ongoing, around the clock, parking meter vigil outside their center, to keep the new lessees of Chicago’s parking meter system, LAZ Parking/Chicago Parking Meter, LLC from installing new parking meter pay boxes along south Commercial Ave.

So far, the group thinks their sit in has successfully deterred the new meters from being installed on their block. The sit in began over a month ago, and thus far, no Pay & Display units have gone in.

“They haven’t done anything yet,” said Perea. “I’ve noticed a lot of unity in the community. A lot of cops, bus drivers, taxi drivers are supporting us.”

The third organization involved is No Game Chicago, in which their main focus is helping scuttle Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics. But group co-founder Bob Quellos believes the issues are linked.

“We see the connection between what’s going on with the parking meters and the Olympics,” explains Quellos. “We’ve been going around the city attending the the neighborhood meetings the city has been putting on to sell Chicago’s Olympics bid, and this issue (meters) always comes up. If that (meter lease deal) has been such a boondoggle, how are you going to handle something the size of the Olympics?”

Protest organizers are estimating a turnout to be between 100-200 , with a minimum of two buses already scheduled to be transport protesters to the event.

“It’s good to see democracy in action,” said 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack who voted against the lease deal. “The city gave this asset away for quick cash, it was one of our city’s greatest assets and has really made things a mess for residents and businesses. People have a right to be angry. And they shouldn’t back down just because they think this thing is a done deal.”

Beacham is encouraging anyone opposed to the parking meter lease deal, including City Council members, to join the protest at City Hall.

“Anybody who wants oppose the parking meter rate hikes in the city or in the park district, or is opposed to the meter lease deal, is welcome to join in,” says Beacham. “All the aldermen’s constituents are against the lease deal. We’re not opposed to having any of the aldermen joining the campaign.”

Garcia too wants to encourage people to join the protest on their lunch break. “The more people that are there, the stronger our combined voices will be,” Garcia says. “It’s one thing to complain about something, it’s another to stand up against it.”

The protest will take place in front of City Hall, 121 N. La Salle St. at 11:30 AM.

ALERT!: Cub’s Night Game Tonight-Parking Restrictions In Effect

The Houston Astros are in town for a four game series starting tonight at 7:05 PM.

Tomorrow’s a night game too.

Unless you’re going to the Cub’s game, or enjoy bad traffic, or getting ticketed and towed (unless you have the proper permit stickers), don’t drive into Wrigleyville tonight.

Let’s get a win!

The Geek’s Weekend Traffic & Parking Hot Spot Guide

It’s another weekend of street festivals and fun summer events, which of course means street closures, traffic backups and parking headaches. The Parking Ticket Geek has the lowdown on what areas to avoid driving and tips on where to park if you plan to attend any of these events.

Here’s what’s going on, places to avoid driving and parking advice.

EVENT: Venetian Night

WHERE: Saturday evening only–Downtown, along the lakefront

CLOSURES: Possible minimal street closures according to CDOT (I think Lake Shore Drive may be closed during the fireworks).

A beautiful, classic Chicago event. Sailboats decorated with beautiful lights followed by fireworks after 9 PM. Awesome!

Bring your kids, but not your car. They city is expecting over a half million people. Take public transportation and enjoy yourself.

EVENT: Taste of Lincoln Ave.

WHERE: Lincoln Park

CLOSURES: Lincoln Ave., between Fullerton and Wrightwood

A long time Chicago street festival that, with it’s tremendous amount of beer vendors, always produces large numbers of inebriated, Lincoln Park assholes drunk dancing to crappy caucasian-rock music. Vomit!

The only good thing I can say for this festival is the organizers have been very proactive in informing local motorists of the impending street closures. I saw orange fliers on area cars warning drivers when they had to move their cars to avoid being towed. Good job guys. But I still hate your fest.

Parking already sucks in Lincoln Park under normal circumstances. Take away three or so blocks of metered parking and parking is even more painful. So I cannot endorse driving to this event.

Traffic will suck, because closing down Lincoln Ave. will totally jam up traffic in Lincoln Park. Avoid Lincoln Ave. around Lincoln Park at all costs this weekend.

EVENT: Wicker Park Fest

WHERE: Uhhhhhh…Wicker Park.

CLOSURES: Milwaukee Ave., from North Ave. to Wood St.

Decent indy music, hipper neighborhood, less annoying people hanging out. I say go!

Parking is not terrible over there, but it’s not great. Again, when you close down two or three blocks of metered parking, you may face some problems. The CTA Blue Line stops right there too. Personally, I would drive. Parking shouldn’t be terrible.

On the other hand, with Milwaukee Ave. closed, traffic is going to be seriously messed up around North Ave., Damen & Milwaukee. If you’re not going to the festival, stay the hell away.

EVENT: Chicago Criterium

WHERE: Grant Park

CLOSURES: Sunday only: Jackson and Balbo, and/from Michigan to Columbus.

A big bike race, taking place along the streets listed above, starting at 7 AM. Traffic will be goofy in the morning and early afternoon.

Have a fun weekend everyone!

Venetian Night photo courtesy/copyright Goatling’s Flickr page.

VIDEO: New Pay Box Installation In Wicker Park Spells Potential Trouble For Drivers

This weekend is Wicker Park Fest along Milwaukee Ave. from North Ave. to Wood St.

Warning signs to drivers were posted an each and every parking meter along that stretch of Milwaukee. The signs prohibit parking Saturday and Sunday, starting VERY early Saturday morning. Vehicles, if unmoved, will be towed to the auto pound.

Well, as coincidence would have it, LAZ Parking meter installation teams were quickly and efficiently installing new pay boxes along that same few blocks of Milwaukee Ave.

Unfortunately, according to reader and Wicker Park resident “Citizen K.”, when LAZ crews placed those green “Please Pay At Pay Box” hoods over the meter heads, so that most of the No Parking signs were covered up.

“Citizen K.” thinks it’s a recipe for disaster.

Concerned many unwitting drivers, unable to see the signs that were covered up by LAZ personnel will be ticketed, towed and therefore on the hook for $160 plus, “Citizen K.” called LAZ’s help line to inform them of the problem. However, based on his conversation, he doesn’t expect any resolution.

“They took down my information, but I don’t think they’re going to come out and replace those signs,” explained “Citizen K.”

A call from this website, to inform 32nd Ward Alderman Waguespack of the potential problem this evening found him at home finishing dinner.

“Even though we participate in the fest, it’s (the location) is in (Manny) Flores’ ward,” says Wauguespack.

But, despite this fact, Waugespack says he’ll print up some new warning signs and, after the rain, plans to personally re-post fliers on all the parking meter heads.

If your car has magically disappeared overnight, you’ll know what happened.

If your gets towed from Milwaukee Ave., because signs were torn down, shoot a call into 1st Ward Alderman Manny Flores’ office (773-278-0101) and show him “Citizen K.’s video documenting the lack of warning signs along Milwaukee Ave.

Perhaps he’ll go to bat for you when you try to recoup your hard earned cash after you spend half a day at the auto pound to recover your car.

Check out the Expired Meter’s Ultimate Internet Reference Guide To Getting Towed By The City of Chicago for all you need to know if your car gets towed.