Monthly Archives: December 2009

Chicago Parking Meters Announces Rate Change Details

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Tuesday, via a press release, Chicago Parking Meters, LLC announced meter rate increases for 2010.

As reported earlier, the company will increase all central business district meters from $3.75 per hour to $4.25, all meters currently charging $2.00 per hour to $2.50 per hour and all remaining meters in the outlying neighborhoods from $1.00 to $1.25 per hour. This represents an average increase of 25%, but a 500% increase within the last 12 months.

The company says, contrary to this website’s reporting, that the rate change transition process will begin Monday, January 4th, with a completion date of January 31, “weather conditions permitting”.

As a full month to complete the transition represents over 9% of the year, it seems that CPM and LAZ have plenty of incentive to change the meters to the higher rates as quickly as possible.

These rate increases were actually spelled out in the original meter lease deal agreement approved by the Chicago City Council in December of 2008. That same agreement provides for rate increases January 1st for the first five years of the lease.

At least one city council member, Ald. Joe Moore (49th), according to WLS TV,  is asking CPM to delay the rate increases.

Yawn. NY Times Reports Parking Meter Vandalism

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In what seems to be a historical piece or perhaps reflecting a news sense that lacks normal journalistic urgency, the New York Times reported on December 24th, that eight months ago, Chicago  saw an increase in parking meter vandalism.

To be fair, the NYT actually filed a freedom of information act (FOIA) request to find out there were 579 cases of meter vandalism reported between April and August of 2009.

However, this number should be of no surprise to anyone reading this website,  where most of the reporting on this destructive trend was chronicled over, and over, and over again, when it was actually timely news.

Here’s the full story.

LAZ To Fast Track Parking Meter Rate Changes

pay-to-park

When the new, higher Chicago parking meter rates kick in January 1st, motorists will have little time to reminisce about 2009’s lower rates as the transition is expected to move very quickly.

Nine days is all it should take.

That’s how fast sources claim LAZ Parking plans to take to change all 4100 pay boxes and 600 traditional single head parking meters from the old rates, to the new increased rates.

According to a source within LAZ Parking, rate change crews will hit the ground running January 1st in order to begin converting pay boxes to the higher rates.

When the City of Chicago signed a 75 year long concession agreement with Chicago Parking Meters, LLC to operate the city’s entire 36,000 parking meter system, it allowed for rate increases for the first five years of the deal, and at minimum, increases tied to inflation after that.

So, while the most drastic increases occurred early in 2009, with the vast majority of meters increasing 400% from 25 cents per hour to $1.00 hour, rates will rise again on January 1, 2010 by an average of 25%.

Meters that are currently charging $1.00 per hour go up to $1.25 per hour, while meters currently charging $2.00 per hour will go up 50 cents an hour to $2.50 per hour, and downtown meters currently charging $3.50 per hour will increase by 75 cents an hour to $4.25 per hour.

For all practical purposes, Chicago’s parking meter rates have increased by an average of 500% in less than 12 months.

The time around it seems, CPM does not want a replay of last spring when it encountered a slew of problems which delayed in its initial transition from old rates to new rates.

Initially, when LAZ Parking, CPM’s operational partner, had to change the rates on over 36,000 single (or double) space meters, it took much longer than expected. Originally, LAZ thought it would take three to four weeks to complete the transition. Eventually, after three months or so, the rate change was complete.

In addition, during the transition, many meters were broken or vandalized, meters overflowed with quarters because the company did not realize the four-fold rate increase would require meters being emptied more frequently, and many meters were mislabeled or not charging the correct amounts.

According to sources, the company, not looking to get embarrassed again for their initial performance with last year’s meter rate increases, has been carefully planning, preparing and training personnel since October to convert all meters and pay boxes to the new rates as fast as possible.

This time around it will be much easier because of the new parking meter pay boxes the company had installed over the last eight months. Instead of having over 36,000 single-space meters to change over, there will be only 600 single space meters to convert and 4100 multi-space pay boxes.

Even though January 1st, New Year’s Day, is a holiday, LAZ’s action plan calls for three, two-person crews converting all Loop/Central Business District pay boxes (the most lucrative area with the highest meter rates) to the new, even higher rates on that day.

However, on January 2nd, a total of 10 teams of two people will hit the streets converting 50 pay boxes per day, per team, to the higher rates. A pace of 500 pay boxes per day.

All 600 remaining single space meters will be changed to the new rates by January 4th.

CPM spokesperson Avis LaVelle disputes the claim about rapid speed and efficiency of the rate transition only saying, “it will be done in a phased approach.”

LaVelle says the company will release more details about their plans for the meter rate changes sometime this week.

ALERT!: Parking Meter Pay Boxes Freezing Up Again

Thermometer

Plenty of rain followed by rapidly plummeting temperatures have done it again.

Chicago’s parking meter pay boxes are freezing up again.

This website has confirmed reports that cold weather has frozen the buttons used to operate many pay boxes around the city.

If you park at a frozen parking meter you will most likely be allowed to park for free as long as you report the problem to Chicago Parking Meter customer service at (877) 242-7901.

Make sure you get a reference number, just in case you receive a parking ticket. The reference number will allow you to contest the ticket and have it dismissed as it backs up your defense that the meter was inoperable.

Temperatures, according to forecasts, will remain under freezing for the next few days, so be prepared for this problem to continue for the near future.

UPDATE: Green-hatted LAZ maintenance folks have been spotted on the streets de-icing pay boxes late Saturday morning. It looks like they’re on the case.

Christmas Eve Parking Notes

Christmas Tree

Just some random notes for Christmas Eve.

Weather Sucks, Drive Carefully

First, the weather is making driving very dangerous, especially on side streets. Please slow down and drive carefully. We want everyone getting home safely.

Geek On The Radio

The Geek is going to join Pat Cassidy and John Dempsey on WLS 890 AM this morning at 10 AM. It will be a short segment, but tune in or stream it if you can.

Feed The Meters!!!

It’s not a parking meter holiday AND, PEA Ticketmaster warns us parking enforcement will be essentially at full strength–despite the fact the rest of the city is closed to save money.

“Just a little reminder. Even though Christmas Eve is scheduled as a “reduced service date”, parking enforcement aides will be out and about doing what we do best,” says Ticketmaster.

So avoid tickets, and feed those meters!

Frozen Meters?

I don’t think it’s going to get cold enough, but with all this sleet, etc., watch out for frozen meter problems.

Merry Christmas

We hope you and your family have a blessed and happy Christmas.

UPDATE: Paul Eggers from First Chicago Business, says a recent interview with the Parking Ticket Geek will air Saturday, December 26th at 6:30 AM on Me-TV.

Yeah, that’s very early. I’m not even sure I’ll be up that early, but I’ll try. Two year old kids help.

Photo copyright Scott Feldstein

‘Ethics’ Gets In The Way Of Christmas Spirit

Parking Ticket Cake

I tried.

I really did.

But despite the Geek’s best efforts to share some holiday cheer with the Department of Revenue, he failed.

The problem? Ethics.

I guess part of the problem with getting old is sentimentality. When this website first started, just under two years ago, some say it held an overly antagonistic attitude toward the DOR. There’s probably some truth in that.

However, over these many months, I’d like to think this one-dimensional view has expanded and mellowed. Most likely it’s from interacting via e-mail and this website with some very nice contributors to the site that also happen to be Parking Enforcement Aides for the city. Getting to know some of these people, made me realize, as much as I hate parking tickets, my problem wasn’t really with the PEAs, but with the policies and people who created these policies.

That’s not to say The Expired Meter isn’t dedicated to reporting problems and issues, and taking the DOR and others to task when fair and appropriate. But, I’d hope it’s more about reporting facts and the truth than trying to be petty and mean. One might call this objectivity. We aspire to that description.

So, being it was the end of the year, and overcome by the holiday spirit, this overly sentimental sap thought to to share holiday well wishes with the men and women who pound the streets and issue those damn bright orange tickets citywide.

The Geek went out and had a cake decorated with a picture of a parking ticket, and tried to send it over to DOR Street Operations over at Ashland & Diversey last week with the hopes his holiday cheer would be shared with the PEAs and booters.

Unfortunately, no one over at Street Ops got a chance to taste it. It seems there’s a problem with sending anonymous cake to city employees.

Ethics.

DOR spokesperson Ed Walsh, shot me an e-mail to explain.

“Thank you for the cake,” Walsh’s e-mail began. “However, there is an ethics rule that technically does not
allow us to accept from anonymous donors. You have to identify yourself when submitting a gift.”

Oops. Never even considered that.

While I’ve never heard of accepting baked goods as a lapse in ethical standards, I’ll take Walsh’s word that this is the case. At the same time, I guess I’m happy at least some departments and employees in this city are trying to live up to high standards of ethics.

But it’s hard not to find it humorous, that a city famous the world over for ethics violations of Biblical proportions, views a cake as a potential ethics issue.

Ultimately, according to Walsh, the parking ticket cake made it over to a homeless shelter. A much better place than a trash receptacle.

So, the Parking Ticket Geek apologizes to his PEA friends for the lack of delicious chocolate cake.

I tried.

I meant it as a sincere expression of the holiday spirit.

And as the words on the cake said, in bright green frosting:

“Happy Holidays From The Parking Ticket Geek.”

Geek Talks Parking Meters & Red Light Cameras on GML

The bright orange Parking Ticket Geek Hotline rang late Tuesday afternoon in the Geek’s super-secret underground bunker.

It was Jerry Stiles, the producer for Garrard McClenndon Live, CLTV’s nightly fast paced news, opinion and call-in talk show.

McClenndon was going to tackle the topics of red light cameras and parking meters, and Stiles wanted to know if the Geek was interested in coming on the show to add his nitwit two cents.

A few hours later, McClenndon and the Geek were talking frozen meters, increased meter rates, parking and red light camera tickets.

Thanks to Garrard and Jerry for inviting me over.

CPM, City, Reveal ‘Automatic Parking Ticket Dismissal’ System

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When Chicago Parking Meters, LLC issued a press release yesterday enumerating the positive steps they’ve taken in the past year to improve Chicago’s parking meter system, one item stood out.

The “automatic parking ticket dismissal” listed in the release, was something that had not been announced previously.

Before now, the policy has been that if you park at a malfunctioning parking meter, you call to report the meter in question,  you’re given a reference number and still allowed to park. If you are issued a meter violation,  you contest it using the reference number as proof the meter was malfunctioning and the the ticket should be dismissed.

While still a bit of work, one had reasonable confidence this system would make your ticket go away.

But now, it seems CPM and the city are trying to take this process one step further.

According to Ed Walsh, spokesperson for Chicago’s Department of Revenue, parking tickets written at inoperable meters in some cases being non-suited or dismissed without the vehicle owner having to contest the ticket at all.

“A ticket must be issued at a meter that has wirelessly reported being inoperable in order for the ticket to be withdrawn,” said Walsh via e-mail. “Again, the dismissal program is limited to events wirelessly reported by the pay box. Consequently, motorists who park at a broken meter should still report the meter to CPM’s customer service line at 877.242.7901. Although the tickets are withdrawn regardless of whether a contest is on file, motorists should still contest any ticket issued in error.”

According to Walsh, the program has been in place since mid-August and so far, has automatically “dismissed” 92 improper meter violations.

While 92 withdrawn violations may seem low on its’ face, one must consider that the technology behind these new pay boxes allows the units to warn technicians of impending maintenance issues (low battery, low paper, too many coins, etc.) before a pay box goes down completely. The reliability of these machines, under normal circumstances, is relatively high compared to earlier generation parking meters.

And, while Parking Enforcement Aides (PEA) are advised to check if a meter is working before issuing a ticket, and the new system seems to be working well so far, Walsh encourages all motorists to contest any improper tickets just to be safe.

“If ticketed in error, motorists should still also contest the ticket,” reiterated Walsh.  ” Motorists can, however, determine if a ticket has been dismissed prior to submitting a challenge or requesting a hearing by visiting cityofchicago.org/revenue or calling 312.744.PARK.”

Happy Holidays From Chicago Parking Meters!

Parking Meter Christmas Card

Just days away from a cross the board parking meter rate increase, Chicago Parking Meters, LLC has tried to placate motorists with a press release extolling many of the positive things their company has done in regards to Chicago’s parking meter system.

While it is absolutely true, all the accomplishments or policy changes listed in the press release are positive and good for Chicago drivers, it kind of comes off as one of those overbearing holiday letters you get from your friends that gives you a blow-by-blow recap of their family’s accomplishments for the past year.

Of course, you’re going to hear about little Judy’s straight A report cards, Jimmy’s home run record and Dad’s big promotion at work. But you’re not going to hear about Mom’s drinking problem, Jimmy’s ADD issues, or Dad’s run in with the cops after getting busted for DUI.

All kidding aside, here’s the list of accomplishments the company is trumpeting.

Portable time: If you pay for X amount of time, you can use your receipt until the time expires within the same rate area or lower rate area. For example, if you pay at a meter that’s $2 per hour, you can use it in that area or in an area where meters are only $1 per hour. But…you can’t take that same receipt downtown where rates are currently $3.75 per hour.

Extended periods of stay: In some areas of the city (near theaters, concert halls, churches, schools, hospitals) where motorists might need more than a two-hour stay, pay box times have been extended to accommodate motorists patronizing these neighborhoods.

Automatic parking ticket dismissal: Some parking tickets, cross referenced with a database of malfunctioning parking meters are “withdrawn” or dismissed outright.

Discounted monthly parking in lots: CPM is testing a program that harkens back to before the lease agreement when drivers could purchase monthly passes at 11 citywide lots at discounted prices.

Pre-payment: Pay boxes are programmed to offer pre-payment.  Motorists parking at 24-hour meters can generally pre-pay until 10:00am (unless rush hour restrictions are in place).  At most other meters, motorists can pre-pay as early as 5:00am until 10:00am or later.

Donated bicycle meters: CPM left thousands of single-space meters intact around the city, for bicycle riders to use to lock their bikes.

24 x 7 customer service center: CPM offers round the clock customer phone service.

A lot of this stuff is old news. In some cases, these changes were not initiated by CPM, but accepted by CPM when city officials asked to make these policy changes.

In addition, there are at least two positive things CPM has changed that they should have bragged about.

The first is the company’s new refund policy. A long time coming, but a great move.

The second is the efficiency of their maintenance crews. These machines, under normal circumstances, are never down or broken for any significant time periods. The technology behind these new pay boxes are so robust, that when something is wrong, the machine will alert the company of the problem and a maintenance worker is dispatched to fix the machine.

One time, I came across a pay box that had run out of receipt paper. Upon returning 90 minutes later, the problem had been fixed. Very impressive.

However, despite all these solid positive steps, there are still a few improvements we’d like to see.

ParkMagic In-Car Meter: This brilliant piece of technology allows drivers to remotely add time to their meters via their cell phones. It’s like I-Pass for parking. What’s the holdup? Why the delay? By fully embracing this technology, motorists will be happy to pay the new, increased rates. Let’s GO!

Pre-Paid Gift Cards/Debit Cards: CPM really missed the boat this holiday season by not having pre-paid gift cards to so sell to Chicagoans. A great stocking stuffer. And why not give discounts for people who want to buy pre-paid debit cards? C’mon!

Lower Rates: Do you really need to increase rates in all areas of the city? While many people are starting to accept the last meter rate increase and are parking at meters again, there are still some areas of the city where the boycott is still on. Look, would you like to get 25 cents or 50 cents an hour or zero cents per hour? It’s simple economics.

Holiday Gift Ideas For Your Favorite Parking Scofflaw

With Christmas just a few days away, The Expired Meter is going to give readers holiday gift ideas for that parking ticket or red light camera ticket challenged person in your life.

Nothing says love more, than getting them a parking themed gift for Christmas.

Cobra SL3

PRODUCT: Cobra SL3 Red Light Camera Locator

COST: Retails for for $129.99 but you can get it from Buy.com for $78.16 including shipping.

FEATURES:

  • Audio and visual alert warning of approaching red light camera intersections
  • Boasts a very reliable GPS database or RLC locations
  • Also warns of speed traps, speed camera locations and other dangerous intersections

GPS Angel

PRODUCT: GPS Angel V4e Red Light Camera Warning System

COST: $99.99 from GPS Angel

FEATURES:

  • Visual and audible alarms of impending red light camera intersections
  • FREE lifetime database updates
  • Also pinpoints speed camera locations and other dangerous intersections

Kikkerland Keyring

PRODUCT: Parking Meter Alarm Keyring with quarter holder

COST: $9.95 each from X-Treme Geek.

FEATURES:

  • Alarm that can be set in 5 minute increments
  • LCD readout
  • Holds 10 quarters

With the parking meter rate increases just a few weeks away, people are really going to find need for these.

PRODUCT: Quarter Dispenser

COST: $2.99 each from The Container Store

FEATURES:

  • Holds 30 quarters
  • Spring loaded
  • Clips to purse, backpack, belt loop

Fantazia parking meter bank

PRODUCT: Fantazia Parking Meter Coin Bank

COST: $29.95 for the 36″ tall version, $44.95 for the 55″ tall version from Baron Bob or $37.99 each from Avant Garde Gadgets.

FEATURES:

  • Resembles a “real” single-head parking meter
  • Clear plastic post allow kids (or adults) to see change pileup
  • Great for collecting all the quarters you’ll need for the impending meter rate increase

Silver Parking Meter

PRODUCT: Classic Single-Head Parking Meter

COST: $199.99 from Northern Tool.

FEATURES:

  • Silver old fashioned parking meter
  • Takes nickels, dimes and quarters
  • Re-manufactured and fully functional

Art Frahm Parking Meter print

PRODUCT: “No Time To Lose” poster print by pinup girl artist Art Frahm.

COST: $37.50 from For Walls Only.

FEATURES:

  • 20″ x 16″
  • Originally painted in 1951
  • Frahm, whom passed away in 1981, spent most of his working life in Chicago
  • Campy, not very tasteful, most wives and girlfriends will hate it

Stick It To Your Ticket

PRODUCT: Stick It To Your Ticket–The Unofficial Guide To Beating Your Parking Ticket In Chicago by Sheldon Zeiger

COST: $12.95 from Bookmasters, or at select Chicago bookstores.
FEATURES:

  • A guide to contesting Chicago parking tickets
  • Written by a former Administrative Law Officer for the city of Chicago
  • Author spent 15 years adjudicating over 100,000 parking ticket hearings