Monthly Archives: January 2010

Chicago’s Parking Meter Deal A ‘Sucessful Fiasco’

Former Indianapolis Mayor Steven Goldsmith weighs in with his thoughts on Chicago’s parking meter lease deal in a piece for the ultra-wonky Governing Magazine.

Goldsmith basically feels the deal should have been a no-brainer. In his opinion the money was good, and he supports the concept of privatization. But, because of mistakes of implementation, there’s been a political backlash and, according to Goldsmith, was a “cause célèbre for opponents of privatization nationwide.”

His opinion piece basically rehashes the deal and the main implementation problems over the past year, but he fails to address how the Mayor jammed the deal down Chicago’s throat like force feeding a duck for the purposes of producing delicious foie gras.

Read Goldsmith’s full piece “Successful ‘Fiasco’: Chicago’s Parking Meter Mishap.”

Hat tip to MW, and also Lynn Stevens who writes the Peopling Places blog.

Racist ‘Parking Tickets’ Show Up In County Board Race

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Only in Chicago.

According to a news report from NBC 5, political fliers designed to look like Chicago parking tickets and placed on the windshield of cars in the South Loop, attack Ald. Toni Preckwinkle who’s running in the Democratic Primary for Cook County Board President.

On the backside of the flier Ald. Preckwinkle is called an “Aunt Jemima,” and has a photo of Preckwinkle with a parking meter paybox behind her.

While the racially charged slur upset Preckwinkle, the Alderman seemed almost more bothered by being accused of something even more inflammatory–being a supporter Chicago’s parking meter lease deal.

The truth is, Preckwinkle was vocally opposed to the meter lease deal, and one of only five Chicago City Council members whom voted against the $1.16 billion dollar deal.

While the news story originated on NBC 5 locally, it made its way to the NBC Nightly News on Thursday evening.

Website Let’s Drivers Handle Speeding Tickets Online

Good news for lead footed drivers, now you can pay your speeding ticket, or request a court hearing online.

Back in late June, the Cook County Clerk’s office debuted a new website allowing motorists ticketed for speeding and a handful of other moving violations, to deal with their ticket from the convenience of a personal computer.

Previously, motorists nabbed with a speeding ticket or similar violation could mail in their payment or hearing request or could wait in line at one of the Clerk’s district locations.

“This new service is a special convenience for the citizens of Cook County,” said Dorothy Brown, Cook County Clerk via press release . “It enables individuals to rapidly and conveniently respond to their traffic violations and, if they so choose, pay associated fines and other charges, safely and securely on their home computers.”

The Clerk does charge a $5 fee per ticket for the convenience of using this website to pay your violations this way.

There are a few restrictions to using the new system. First, you have to be 18 years or older and, it must be what’s called a “Court Diversion” ticket. In other words, you received a ticket that does not require you to appear in court.

The Clerk’s Online Traffic Ticket System, the first of its kind in Illinois, gives users several options.

First, you need to search for your ticket. Although it can take anywhere from seven to 21 days for your violation to show up on the traffic ticket system.

You can plead guilty and pay your fine, or plead guilty, register for Traffic Safety School, and pay your fine and registration fee, or  plead not guilty and request a hearing.

Violations handled by Online Traffic Ticket System

  • Failure to wear a seat belt
  • U-turn in intersection
  • Failure to stop at a stop sign
  • Disobey turn signal indicator
  • Failure to yield to pedestrian in crosswalk
  • Improper right turn
  • Turn on red prohibited
  • Failure to use turn signal
  • Obstructed or cracked front or side windshield
  • Speeding

Ask The Parking Ticket Geek

Dear Parking Ticket Geek,

I was wondering if you can help me.

I’m so tired and angry with the city of Chicago. I hate giving my money to the city of Chicago. I received a meter ticket yesterday because the meter was expired by 7 minutes. Can I beat this ticket?



Sorry Irma,

But the answer is N-O– no.

One minute or seven minutes, if the meter is expired you are eligible for being ticketed.

Yesterday, I got a ticket for being just six minutes late. DOH!

Mayor Daley just recently introduced a proposal to give drivers a five minute meter grace period, but not only has it now been passed yet, you’re still two minutes over the five minutes.

I’m sympathetic, I feel your pain. This has happened to me many times over the years. Basically, tough luck and I think you’re $50 poorer.

The Geek


I drive a pickup truck and just parked at Midway Airport in the terminal garage.

The area I parked in had red signs that said the following: “Vans & SUV’s Prohibited From Parking In This Area – Violators Will Be Ticketed & Towed”.

Since my vehicle is not classified as either and has B- Truck plates I figured that this would not be an issue. When I returned I had received a ticket for 09-64-150 PARK STAND PROHIBITIED ANY TIME.

I think this is wrong and would never have parked there had they indicated that trucks were also prohibited. What’s your thoughts on contesting?



I would fight it. But then again, I’m a contentious dick.

I have to agree with you. From your description the signage does not prohibit someone from parking a pickup truck there.

I think simply, you state in your letter or at your hearing, your vehicle is not a Van or SUV, and therefore it would not be illegal for your pickup truck to park there.

If it had said “no pickup trucks” or “trucks” you would not have parked there.

The pain in the ass thing is, you’re going to need to provide photos of where you parked and the signs. The signs obviously support your story. In addition, you want to show that other vehicles were permitted to park there and it wasn’t just a tow zone or something where no one was allowed to park.

Fight it! I can’t see how you lose, but this is the first I’ve ever heard a situation where cars were allowed to park and not a van or an SUV. Must have to do with the height of the vehicle. Very odd.

Keep the Geek posted.


Dear Mr. Geek,

Why do the pay stations have two-hour maximum time limits? Why should they care if I want

to pay for lots of time as long as I pay the rate and they get their money why should they care to restrict me to how much I can put into a machine at one time?

Seems like if I were in that business all I would care about how much money I can take in.



Hey Rob!

Your question is a legitimate one.

On the surface, it is hard to understand why a driver just can’t pay to park indefinitely at a meter. But there are good reasons for time limits.

Let me explain.

Most meters in Chicago have a two hour time limit, although in some areas of the city longer time limits are allowed for a range of different reasons. Three hour limits are common around theaters to allow patrons of the arts to see the entire performance without running out to feed the meter in the middle of some dude in green tights plodding through some dramatic soliloquy. More extended times are given for areas where there’s not a lot of retail businesses so workers can park all day without having to feed the meter every few hours.

But the main reason two hour time limits exist is to promote turnover of drivers aka customers in retail shopping areas. The theory is, if cars are allowed to park all day, other consumers will not be able to find parking spaces to shop in different neighborhoods in the city.

Often, when meter rates are too low, and overstaying is not enforced, employees working in retail areas have little incentive to give up their spots, despite the fact they have to come out every two hours to feed their meter. Thus, without a time limit and the fear that one can be ticketed for overstaying the limit, some drivers never move and customers with money to burn, spend their money elsewhere, where parking spaces can be found.

So, the short answer is, time limits are necessary to for turnover of customers to help businesses generate revenue.

It allows more consumers the ability to park and shop in a retail shopping areas.

That’s the main reason.

Make sense?

Thanks Rob.

The Geek

Hey Geek!

Does having the wrong license place expiration date on my parking ticket qualify for getting the ticket thrown out due to lack of establishing a prima facie case?

It’s sort of a stretch since all the other info is correct.

Also, do you think contesting by mail is any less effecting than in person?


Crossed Fingers

Crossed Fingers,

From my understanding, while it’s not specifically mentioned in the municipal code, if the wrong expiration date is listed then the ticket is improperly written because technically, it may not be the correct license plate and therefore should be dismissed. This, I agree, is splitting hairs and I’m not 100% confident it will work.

However, to my mind, how does one know this is a legitimate ticket if the ticket writer can’t write down the correct expiration date when it’s right in front of their face? One could make the argument the ticket was manufactured and the ticket writer guessed the expiration date.

Just produce a copy of your Illinois registration at your hearing or if you contest by mail, make this argument and it should get dismissed.

Make sure you try fighting it on any other grounds too, just in case the hearing officer is not fully moved by your strategy to exploit a technicality.

Personally, I like contesting in person, because I have the ability to interact with the hearing officer and answer any questions I may have forgotten to include in a letter.  But that’s just me.


The Geek

Ask The Parking Ticket Geek is a semi-regular parking ticket advice column.

If you have a question for The Parking Ticket Geek, please e-mail the Geek with your query

Chicago Parking Meter Rate Changes 98% Complete

Parking meter rate increases for 2010 are essentially complete according to Chicago Parking Meters, LLC.

CPM spokesperson Avis LaVelle, explained in our report on January 12th, traditional single-space meters would not begin being changed until after all pay box rates were finished being changed.

The vast majority of metered spaces, controlled by multi-space pay boxes, have already been adjusted to reflect the higher rates. CPM finished installing 4100 plus pay boxes the end of November of 2009 and cover over 36,000 metered spaces, or over 98% of all metered spaces.

CPM’s plan was to complete the rate change on all pay boxes before moving on to converting the 600+ remaining traditional single-space meters to the new rates.

Most, if not all single-space meters have been changed over to these higher rates.

The new rates are now $4.25 downtown, $2.50 per hour in areas directly adjacent to the downtown areas and $1.25 per hour in all other outlying neighborhoods.

Take the time to read the displays and signs carefully on each meter so you understand the rate you will have to pay.

Sun-Times: What’s Up With ParkMagic?

Transportation writer Mary Wisniewski took a look into the ParkMagic program in Monday’s Chicago Sun-Times.

Wisniewski tries to find out when the heck Chicago Parking Meters, LLC will make a decision regarding the pay-by-phone device, but got the typical non-committal answer from the company.

Hopefully, CPM will pull the trigger on ParkMagic and let more people embrace this cutting edge technology.

While Wisniewski’s piece claims 700 people got ParkMagic units back in 2007, that number is closer to 1000.

Here’s her full story, “No Magic answer to pay boxes.”

Rich Dude Gets Nailed With $290,000 Speeding Ticket

That’s right.

A $290,000 speeding ticket.

A Swiss millionaire, according to a report from the Associated Press, with a history of repeated speeding offenses, was hit with this record setting fine because normal speeding ticket fines were not having the normal effect of deterring rich dudes from driving too fast. He was going twice the local speed limit, 60 mph in a 30 mph zone in his Ferrari.

More and more European countries like Germany, Austria, France and Nordic nations have been changing their laws to make allowances for an individuals wealth and tailor a fine to reflect their wealth and income. In Germany, while no one has received it, the maximum fine is $16 million. The max in Switzerland is $1 million.

Before, because lower fines were essentially as insignificant as pocket change to a very wealthy person, these rich drivers continued to flout driving laws.

One wonders if the laws should work the other way as well where broke guys like The Parking Ticket Geek would be fined $5 for driving his rusting ’89 Impala over the speed limit?

Ticket Trap Game Teaches Drivers How To Avoid Parking Tickets

Can I park here?

That’s the question that confounded John Staniszewski for many years when he was living in his native Brooklyn.

It was his frustration with confusing parking signs which led to Staniszewski’s car being ticketed many, many times over the years.

“No matter where I parked in Brooklyn there was a different regulation and I would be getting tickets all the time,” said Staniszewski who goes by the handle Parking Ticket Terminator. “There was nothing out there to educate people with that and led me to think of different ways to help with that.”

Eventually, it was those maddeningly annoying signs and costly tickets that was the motivation behind Ticket Trap–Staniszewski’s online parking ticket game.

“It’s meant to give people an experience of what’s out there and take the edge of the parking (experience), said Staniszewski explaining why he decided to create Ticket Trap. “It helps get your eyes used to the seeing the details of seeing different signs and build awareness of how to park legally.”

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Staniszewski an elementary school music teacher for 20 some years, now living on Staten Island, used his background in education to use, designing the game as an “question and answer game about educating and building awareness of many of the problems motorists face parking their vehicles everyday.”

Ticket Trap allows players to pick their player avatar and a vehicle to roam to and fro over the entire five burroughs of New York and challenge their parking violation knowledge. Gamers can play in both English and Spanish.

If you opt to play the game in a traditional linear way, you begin your trek on Staten Island level one, progressing next to Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx and finally, Manhattan, the most difficult level.

Along the way, you make stops to park and are challenged in the form of a parking ticket and an image of a NYC parking sign, a scenario and then a list of multiple choice answers. Choose the right answer and you collect the amount of the fine, or if you are wrong, you lose whatever the fine amount is.

Staniszewski came up with the Ticket Trap game concept over seven years ago and began using one set of internet gaming developers in India. When the first developer disappeared with all the programming code for a half-finished version of the game, Staniszewski had to start the process over again from scratch.

“It was years in the making,” said Staniszewski. “I lost a lot of sleep over it.”

But Staniszewski’s persistence paid off when he debuted the game this past summer.

Traffic is up at his game website and he plans on releasing a CD version of the game soon. In addition, he’s been working on a parking sign matching game to further educate drivers on how to be more savvy when reading signs when trying to park.

While the self-named Parking Ticket Terminator says his experience in parking in New York has reduced the amount of parking tickets he receives, he sheepishly admits he still gets a ticket once in a while.

“I’m pretty good, but I’m always learning something new,” said Staniszewski. “I was getting several a year still when I was living in Brooklyn. Even today parking in the city is challenging.”

Ultimately Staniszewski is hopeful that Ticket Trap will educate drivers to be more aware, careful and and eliminate them getting parking tickets.

You can play Ticket Trap online at

Oregon Man Arrested For Feeding Strangers’ Parking Meters

UPDATE #2: This seems to be a huge, HUGE story in Eugene. A more recent report from KEZI TV devotes over 10 minutes of video news coverage to this story and provides testimony from witnesses that back up Mr. Bond’s story and that he did not harass the parking enforcement officer in the way described in the police charges.

In addition, the police admit Bond did not obstruct the officer by plugging the meters (although there is a separate law on the books that makes feeding other people’s meters illegal).

Bond’s fine was $810, but he vows to fight the charges in court.

Check out the full story and video.

UPDATE: KVAL TV in Eugene, OR is reporting additional facts that seem to contradict the arrested man’s account of the situation. It makes him out to be much more of an aggressor and verbally abusive toward the ticket writer. They claim he followed the parking enforcement officer for three blocks in his vehicle while verbally haranguing her. It was this behavior and a fear for her safety, according to city officials, that prompted the parking enforcement officer to call for police.

Thanks to John Adams for the tip.


A Good Samaritan in Eugene, OR had a run in with a parking enforcement officer for feeding the parking meters of complete strangers.

30 year old Benjamin Bond got angry with an enforcement agent writing tickets on the street, parked his truck, fed his meter and then, armed with a pocketful of change, plunked coins into a block full of parking meters.

But saving a bunch of drivers from an expensive expired meter ticket, brought three cops out to slap the cuffs on him and drag him to jail. He was charged with “harassment and obstruction of governmental administration.”

It sounds oddly reminiscent of a run in this writer had with a Parking Enforcement Aide last spring.

Remember, it’s not illegal to feed someone’s parking meter in Chicago.

WBBM Radio Reports Uptick In Ticket Revenue

Revenue from parking ticket fines are up by $1.5 million in 2009 over 2008.

At least according to our friends over at Newsradio 780 AM.

Veteran news reporter Craig Dellimore, reports that $12.5 million in parking ticket fines were raked in during 2008, but rose to $14 million in 2009, a 12% increase.

The city claims the increase is due to several reasons. This includes last year’ s ticket amnesty program, the extended hours of meter enforcement (from 6 days a week to 7 days a week), and increases in fine amounts for some violations.

However, the piece forgets to mention the main reason for the increase which is a massive increase in ticket writing manpower that began at the start of last year.

Here’s the full story.

: The Parking Ticket Geek shares his pathetic brand of nitwittery with Vocalo listeners tonight after 5:30 PM. Listen in at 89.5 FM or stream it live via the Vocalo website.