Monthly Archives: November 2009

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

Winter Parking Ban Sign 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 in the early hours of  Tuesday morning.

Hundreds of drivers will get up Tuesday 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 Tuesday morning, Chicago’s winter parking ban will take effect and will remain in place until April 1st.

If you park your car on one of these streets overnight, you can be ticketed and towed. The tow will cost you $150 plus $10 a day storage fee and that’s on top of a $50 ticket.

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.

Normally, on the first day/night of winter parking ban towing, the city nails a few hundred unprepared motorists. Don’t be one of these poor suckers.

And assume that enforcement will be even more harsh than in previous years. Last year the Sun-Times embarrassed Streets & Sanitation and the administration by showing that towing revenue was off by nearly 50% due to staff cuts. This, combined with a revenue hungry administration, I would expect armies of tow trucks patrolling these streets this year.

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

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.

“These routes are critical and need to be kept up and running at all times so that emergency vehicles, buses and cars are able to get through,” stated Thomas G. Byrne, Commissioner of Streets & Sanitation via departmental press release. “It is very important for our residents who park on the street to work with us to keep these critical routes open to full capacity by obeying the winter parking regulations.”

Last year, Streets & Sanitation made an effort to distribute fliers a few times in the weeks leading up  to December 1st along the entire route warning drivers of the impending ban. As of today, we were not able to confirm if the city had taken this same action this year.

Here’s a map of the streets where the overnight parking ban is 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.

Two Parking Stories On Fox Chicago Tonight

Fox Chicago logo

Just got done talking to Steve Chamraz over at Fox 32.

He tells the Geek there will be not one, but two parking related stories the 9 o’clock news.

The first story is on a program the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce has begun to encourage shoppers to do their Christmas shopping in that neighborhood.

The chamber is offering FREE parking to shoppers.

Just hold onto your parking receipts and mail them in to the Andersonville Chamber later and receive up to $12 in parking reimbursements. Get all the details at the Andersonville Chamber website.

The second story is a story on the Chicago’s overnight winter parking ban which starts early Tuesday morning.

The Geek makes a brief cameo in this report.

This website will post it’s annual winter parking reminder on Monday.

So tune in at 9 PM to Fox News Chicago for all the details.

Former Alderman’s Personal Red Light Camera

photo-enforced-sign-2

In a side-bar story to the recent red light camera coverage the Tribune has been doing is this interesting article about Burt Natarus’ personal red light camera.

According to former 42nd Ward Alderman Natarus, he got the RLC installed there because his condo is at the intersection of Kingsbury & Ontario.

“I put it in there,” said Natarus, who was chairman of the City Council’s Traffic Committee when the cameras were installed in March 2007. “It’s a very dangerous intersection. . . . They roll right through that thing.”

The city scoffs at his allegations, but when the Trib looked at the accident data to rationalize installing the RLC, there were no accidents in 2005 and 2006  to base their decision on before that camera was installed in March 2007.

But in 2007, perhaps after the cameras were installed, the city documented three accidents there.

HILARIOUS stuff!

Hey, it’s Chicago. The city that works.

Read the full story, “Burton Natarus has red-light camera on his corner.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Turkey

2009 has been a rough year for most everyone.

Despite how tough it’s been, let me give you a few things we all should be thankful for.

Your spouse or significant other, your kids or family members, a warm bed in a warm house, food on the table, and living free in the best country on earth. I’m sure there’s more, but I will leave it to you to express gratitude for all the things you’re grateful for.

This Thanksgiving, eat some turkey and stuffing, but also count your blessings and be thankful for what we do have.

It’s my sincerest wish you and yours have a great Thanksgiving.

IMPORTANT GEEK NOTES:

*CDOT warns of a major street closure starting early Thursday morning. Of course, because it’s the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, State Street, from Congress to Randolph which will be closed and affecting every other street that intersects State street downtown, by closing them down to thru traffic.

So, unless you’re going to the parade, I wouldn’t even dream of parking or driving close to the heart of the Loop on Thursday.

*Although it’s not a meter holiday so you technically should feed your meters, I think enforcement, if it even exists at all, will be very light.

I do know PEAs will have the day off and maybe even Friday, but I haven’t confirmed that yet.

*But, according to my new source we’ll call “Deep Boot,” there will be no booting Thursday or Friday. Although, there may be boot vans doing boot releases those two days.

So enjoy your holiday relatively enforcement free.

UPDATE: Our PEA pal Ticketmaster reports that enforcement will be essentially at full strength Friday, despite the fact that it’s a furlough day for all other city workers. I guess ticket writing is now considered an emergency service like police or  firefighting.

Also, our good friend and PEA, DoR Employee says SERCO enforcement was on the street Thursday enforcing meters.

Geek Crashes Outside The Loop Radio 3rd Anniversary Party

OTL host Mike Stephen & The Geek

OTL host Mike Stephen interviews The Parking Ticket Geek at Toons

If you’re up Thanksgiving morning and have nothing better to do while cooking up your turkey in the kitchen, tune to WLUW 88.7 FM and listen to Outside The Loop Radio.

OTL celebrates it’s third year on the air this Thanksgiving Thursday, with a broadcast taped last Friday evening at Toons Bar & Grill. Somehow, the Geek crashed the party and weaseled his way onto the show.

While OTL always has great guests on the show, the third anniversary edition has some extra special guests including Chicago Reader editor and investigative journalist extraordinaire, Mick Dumke, along with Fausto Fernos, the always hilarious host of the Feast of Fun podcast and local foodie and writer, Andrea Newberry of the Forkable blog.

Of course, I make it no secret that I have tremendous respect for this radio show. Mike Stephen probably has one of the best Chicago public affairs radio shows in the entire city. He consistently has great guests and is always ahead of the curve on topic after topic.

Congrats to Mike and OTL on three years of success. The Geek wishes you many more successful years and hopefully sooner than later, you find a larger megaphone.

Outside the Loop Radio airs every Thursday from 10-11 AM on WLUW 88.7 FM or you can stream it here.

Reuters Writer Revisits Position On Meter Deal

reuters logo 2008 cropped

When Reuters blogger Felix Salmon decided to chime in on recent revelations about Chicago’s parking meter lease deal, he somewhat hastily came to the conclusion that the $1.16 billion was a great deal for the city.

Of course, the Parking Ticket Geek, in his typical twitchy, agitated and nerdy way, got all bent out of shape and felt the need to respond to Mr. Salmon’s views.

But, to his great credit, Salmon decided to at least look deeper into this subject. And while he hasn’t really changed his mind on the valuation, it seems he does understand some of the many other factors that contribute heavily to why Chicagoans are pissed off about the deal.

Here’s his piece, “Chicago’s parking deal revisited.” Read it and tell us what you think. Check out some of the contrary opinions from what I assume to be other Chicagoans below his post.

While I still don’t agree with his assessment on the valuation, at the very least, Mr. Salmon deserves big kudos for being open minded enough to take a second and closer look at the details.

Is ParkMagic Dead?

parkmagic-unit

Is ParkMagic’s pay-by-phone program dead?

That’s the question a recent TimeOut Chicago article poses.

The Parking Ticket Geek has been asking the same question, over and over for months now.

If you’re not aware, ParkMagic is what’s called an in-car meter.

Instead of feeding quarters or credit cards into a parking meter or pay box, you use your cell phone to call a special number to add time to your ParkMagic unit.

Basically, it’s like I-Pass for parking meters.

The technology is impressive. For example,  you can be finishing a glass of wine at a dinner that’s gone longer than expected and just call from your cellphone to add minutes to your ParkMagic unit. No more running back to your car to feed the meter to avoid a parking ticket.

Like the TOC article explains so well, user response to the original test program of 1000 units was so positive that it achieved a 97.6% approval rating from users, and a few thousand more people signed up for the waiting list.

But because the meter lease deal transferred control of the meter system from the city to Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, the program has been on hold.

But ParkMagic is not dead yet.

ParkMagic’s director of operations and chief evangelist Jim O’Connell is still hopeful the program can be expanded in Chicago, but had no further details to share with us.

ParkMagic has also been in talks with Evanston over the past year to provide it’s technology in that suburb immediately north of Chicago. But there’s been no news on that front as well according to O’Connell.

However, he did share that ParkMagic is about to sign a contract with Washington DC for its in-car meter technology. Additionally, ParkMagic is one of three finalists in San Francisco.

One hopes CPM will come to their senses and see the light with ParkMagic’s potential. If CPM is truly dedicated to serving the Chicago motorist, they’ll pull the trigger and let ParkMagic expand their program.

Understanding that payment compliance is a major goal of CPM for maximizing meter revenue, giving the motorist another convenient and easy way to pay like ParkMagic seems like a no-brainer.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

In the meantime, read Jake Malooley’s nice piece entitled “Phone Vex.”

Another Dude Thinks Chicago’s Parking Meter Lease Was A Good Deal

Shhhh!

Here’s a piece of advice.

If you don’t know what you’re talking about, don’t open your mouth.

That’s the Geek’s way of remaining civil  and respectful, despite a very powerful urge to shout and loudly utilize very coarse language one shouldn’t use in front of a priest, a young child or your grandmother.

My barely controllable rage has been triggered by Reuters blogger Felix Salmon freshly penned commentary, “Chicago’s good parking deal.”

It seems the fresh revelations proving once again that Chicago sold off a valuable asset at fire sale prices inspired him to weigh in on an issue of which, he obviously, has no grasp.

So let’s deconstruct Salmon’s thoughts, point by point.

There’s no indication of Chicago Parking Meters’s cost of funds, or whether, after paying the interest on its debt, it’s managing to make any profit at all.

OK. Fair enough point. However, if your company’s expected profit margin is over 70%, it’s a decent bet, unless you’ve secured a payday loan for the $1.16 billion, you’re still making serious cash.

But this ignores the whole point of doing the deal in the first place: that the city was politically incapable of raising the parking-meter rate itself.

What?!? Excuse me?

It was the city council that passed the ordinance that spelled out the specifics of the meter rate increases. CPM and LAZ don’t control the rates. The city still controls parking meter rates. They could change them back to 25 cents per hour if they wanted to. Of course there would be a severe penalty but that’s besides the point.

In fact, from every report I’ve read and every city hall insider I’ve spoken to, all 50 alderman, a full year after the deal was signed, are still receiving holy hell for the rate increases from their constituents.

Salmon goes on to contend that because the city’s consultant (William Blair) told the administration it could get between $650 million to $1.2 billion for the meter system, and they ultimately got the top end of that range, the deal was a good one.

Of course, Salmon must have missed Mick Dumke’s and Ben Jorvasky’s Reader piece that showed it was Blair that came to the Daley Administration with the idea for this deal. Blair can hardly be considered objective when they present the deal, consult on the deal and then push for the deal to be accepted so they can make their monstrous sales commission.

Dude. Let me ask you this. If you went to a doctor that said you only had three months to live, would you just believe them, curl up and die? Or would you get a second opinion?

In this case, wouldn’t it have been prudent if the city sought a second or even a third valuation opinion for a deal as large as this?

It’s called due dilligence.

And Salmon, of course ignores all the other contrary estimates (Chicago Inspector General, Prof. Woods Bowman, Ald. Waguespack) of the deal that show, at a minimum, the city could have received $400 million more, if not billions more in some estimates.

However, even though the cons far outweigh the pros on this deal, you could debate this valuation issue for the life of the lease and never reach consensus.

Salmon, of course without really understanding or knowing the full story, doesn’t know or ignores how little time was given to the city council and the public to weigh in on this deal before it was up for a vote.

Even if we assume $1.16 billion is a great deal for the city. 48-72 hours to look over, debate and discuss and a deal of this magnitude is wayyyyy too short of time.  When democracy so blatantly suffers in a case like this, the true value of the deal is irrelevant because by definition, it’s a bad deal.

So next time Mr. Salmon, it might be best to think before you speak–at least on this subject.

Tribune Reports Red Light Cameras Don’t Always Reduce Crashes

Red light camera

In an unbelievably revealing piece in Sunday’s newspaper, the Tribune presents some pretty damning information about red light cameras.

The Trib’s Bob Secter and Erika Slife sifted through IDOT crash data for certain Chicago RLC intersections, compared them to city of Chicago crash data.

What they found was the city may be cooking the books on their crash reporting to show that Chicago’s red light program is working, when in fact, at many of these intersections, accidents actually increased.

At best, according to the article, the accident reducing results the city has hung it’s hat on in selling he public on red light cameras, is at best, inconclusive.

A seriously great piece of journalism.

Read their report, “Chicago’s red-light cameras don’t always deter accidents“  and you can check out the raw crash data too.

Thanks to our friend Rajiv Shah at Smart Cameras Blog for the heads up.

New York Times’ Take On Recent Relevations Of Parking Meter Lease Deal

NYT logo

Friday’s New York Times has a very nice piece revealing more tawdry details of Chicago’s parking meter lease deal.

Former Chicago Tribune city hall reporter Dan Mihalopoulous does a bang up job on the story.

Here’s the full story, “Company Piles Up Profits From City’s Parking Meter Deal.”

Check it out and tell us what you think.