Monthly Archives: January 2010

A History Of Illinois License Plates

Hey history buffs.

Check out this really impressive web production on The History of Illinois License Plates.

Brought to us by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, it traces the origins of the first circular license medallions in 1907 to the present day.

On July 1, 1907 Sidney S. Gorham of LaGrange was issued license number 1 and Henry W. Austin of Oak Park was issued license number 2.  A total of 12,000 licenses were issued that first year.

Broken down by year, you can view what the plate or medallion looked like, who was the Secretary of State at the time,  how many automobiles were licensed  in the state that year, and a brief historical overview of that particular year.

Compelling and beautifully executed, it is a visual timeline of the history of the automobile, and its impact on this state but on the American economy and society as well.

Daley Proposes Free Pass On Expired Meter Tickets


Wednesday morning, just outside City Council chambers inside City Hall, an embattled Mayor Daley offered Chicago motorists a bit of a break.

If approved by the City Council, the Mayor wants to allow any motorist one free pass on an expired meter ticket per year.

But, there is a catch…or two.

The ticket must have been issued less than five minutes from the time on the parking meter receipt.

And…this offer is limited to one per vehicle per year.

It also seems, at first glance, the law will not apply to any of the remaining traditional single-head meters as, without a receipt, there’s no objective measure of time.

It is already departmental policy for Parking Enforcement Aides (PEA) not to issue parking tickets for expired meters less than five minutes from the expiration date on the meter receipt. However, “This codifies it, it’s a valid defense and we will withdraw (the ticket),” says Bea Reyna-Hickey, Commissioner of the Department of Revenue, according to the Tribune’s Clout Street blog.

“He’s a generous man,” said 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack dryly when asked about the Mayor’s proposed parking ticket largesse. “This is nice, but how many people are going to know about it and how many will actually go and do it?”

Waguespack, perhaps Daley’s harshest critic on the lease deal, and one of only five council members who voted against it, feels this is just one more issue that should have been hashed out before the lease deal was passed.

“These are all things that should have been discussed before we sold off the meters,” reiterated Waguespack.

While Daley’s plan might sound nice, it’s a blatant attempt to repair the political damage from the backlash from the parking meter lease deal and is really nothing more than attempt to bribe motorists into cooling down.

It’s akin to placating a two-year old at the height of their tantrum with a lollipop (grape flavored).

What the City Council should do is incorporate Daley’s idea into a mildly more comprehensive law that prevents ticket writers from issuing expired meter tickets five minutes or less from the expiration of the receipt. And while they’re at it, they could include a grace period for street cleaning tickets until 10 minutes after street cleaning is to begin.

Under Daley’s plan, the burden of responsibility is borne by the motorist. The law, as proposed, doesn’t legally ban ticket writers from issuing tickets before the five minute grace period is up. It just gives motorist a chance to get out of paying one of these close call expired meter tickets once a year IF they take the time to contest the ticket.

With an across the board grace period like a recently passed law in New York City and a long-standing policy in Boulder, CO, motorists have the protection of the law in all circumstances and are not restricted to one incident per year.

Finally, it’s our guess that this newly proposed policy heralds the reinstatement of Chicago Parking Meter’s own enforcement efforts. So be on the look out for even more parking enforcement wearing the bright red LAZ logos on their jackets on the streets of the city very soon.

New Year’s Resolutions For Chicago Parking Meters

new year's resolutions

Normally, when the beginning of a new year comes around, many people draft a list of New Year’s resolutions.

Some see it as trying to turn over a new leaf, or just want to improve on a segment of their life. People use it as a way to inspire themselves to get in shape and/or lose weight, or others are just trying to stop imbibing themselves into a coma each night.

Whatever it is, New Year’s resolutions are as good as reason as any to try improving one’s self.

Yes, I am fully aware we’re nearly two weeks into 2010. And yes, New Year’s resolutions are made at the beginning of the year.

My New Year’s resolution is to stop procrastinating.

Oops! I’ve already screwed up. Damn!

But I thought drafting a list of New Year’s resolutions for Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, might be a way to share ways for them to improve their services to us–the motorists who feed their parking meters every day.

One hopes this list of New Year’s resolutions gets a place of prominence above desks of prominence at CPM.  But my guess, it will, like most New Year’s resolutions, make it into the trash sooner than later.


1. Nickels & Dimes

Let drivers pay with for their metered time with nickels and dimes.

We know those pay boxes can be adapted to allow other coin denominations besides dollar coins and quarters. Most drivers who prefer using change, would love a way to unload their spare change. It would seem less painless to rid our pockets of all the damn nickels and dimes that accumulate in our pockets over the course of the day and week.

Plus, some of us are so broke, digging for spare change in the cushions of our couch or between the seats of our cars is an embarrassing, but necessary part of daily life these days.

And how often do drivers run out of that last quarter they need to get the full time they want?

Sure, it may be a little more difficult and mildly more expensive in collections, but my guess, the company will get more compliance in the long run and therefore more revenue.

2. Prepaid Debit Cards & Gift Cards

The CTA does it. So does Metra.

If you prepay for a certain amount of rides, public transit riders can get a discount.

Why not apply this to parking meters?

Drivers who use the meters often can purchase credit in advance and perhaps even have the ability to re-charge their cards on-line.

These debit cards could be used as gift cards as well.

Scooter receipt

3. Solve the Motorcycle Parking Issue

We know CPM is supposedly testing a solution that is an improved adhesive backed receipt to solve this relentless motorcycle/scooter parking issue. That’s good.

But we have an additional idea to recommend.

Invest in some sort of small, clear plastic pouch or envelope that can be easily affixed or attached to a motorcycle or scooter.

Seriously, I know some dudes in this factory in China with a few thousand 9-year old kids on staff, that can pump out several thousand of these for about $100 including shipping. Have them slap the CPM logo on it and start giving them away to any and all motorcycle owners in Chicago.

Send one to every registered motorcycle or scooter owner in Chicago. Give them away at motorcycle dealers all over the city and suburbs.

Not only will it be a gesture of goodwill showing how much you respect your two-wheeled customers, it will allow motorcycle and scooter owners a way to secure their expensive piece of paper proving their paid for parking and keep it safe and dry from the elements and without getting sticky crap all over their headlamp.

4. Be Honest & Upfront With The Public

I’m not sure you know this. But CPM is a public utility like ComEd, and People’s Gas. The company, with the full approval of our Mayor and City Council, has been given a mini-monopoly of Chicago’s on street parking.

CPM is in the big time now and needs to behave like it.

They need to take some tips from these other utilities dealing with service issues.

When the power goes out in a storm, ComEd spokespeople contact the media the problem occurs. Not hours or days after the problem is identified. And not just when reporters are knocking on your door. These issues need to be addressed immediately.

When all those several hundred new pay boxes in the loop had that hiccup and stopped working this past spring, you should have made a public announcement about it right away and assured the public you were aware of the situation and were working to fix the problem.

Or more recently, when many of the pay boxes froze up due to the wet weather and rapidly plummeting temperatures, you could have contacted the media when the problems first began the night before and explained your maintenance technicians were on the job.

In addition, in both cases the company tried to play fast and loose with the facts, instead of just giving an truthful assessment of the situation.

If you were honest and upfront with the public, and explained what happened immediately, most people would have understood and it would have blown over quickly. Instead,  you made a bad situation much worse.

The public is not completely stupid, and deserves not to have its collective intelligence insulted.

While I hope similar situations don’t happen again, if it does, do the right thing.


5. Park Magic In-Car Meter

What the hell are you waiting for?

Seriously. What’s the deal here?

The company has a chance to pull the trigger on a cutting edge parking payment technology, on a product that is already been proven and successful here in Chicago and CPM just won’t do it.

What gives?

Do they even know what talking about?

ParkMagic is that in-car parking meter, much like I-Pass that allows drivers to pay for parking via cell phone.

Are they looking into some other providers? I know some others exist. But ParkMagic is already running here. And it’s users universally LOVE the service. LOVE IT!!!! It has a 97.6 approval rating.

Cell phone technology is changing every aspect of our lives, including paying parking meters. Allowing Chicago drivers to use this technology, and giving them one more option to feed the meters, just increases the compliance rate and ultimately puts more money in the company’s coffers.

It’s a no brainer. So quit stalling and just do it!

6. Lower Meter Rates

You need to lower parking meter rates.

No, seriously, you do.

Not everywhere. But in some places.

The three, one size fits all meter rates aren’t working in some cases.

While increased rates have improved parking in many areas of the city, in others, the higher rates have pushed drivers away in droves. I see some metered blocks in some neighborhoods that have almost no one parking there.

There’s nothing in the lease deal which prohibits CPM from lowering rates in some cases.

It’s simple economics.

Lower rates in less trafficked areas and you’ll increase revenue.

50 or 25 cents an hour is greater than 0 cents per hour.

It’s grammar school mathematics.

Not only would this increase revenue, but you would generate much needed goodwill.

Free Parking As Meter Rate Changes Roll On

LAZ Rate Change

The parking meter rate change process is moving along pretty quickly as it now enters the second week of transitions to higher rates.

All downtown/loop multi-space pay boxes, sporting the highest rates in the city, were essentially completed on the first day of the transitions, Monday, January 4th. These meters increased $0.75 per hour, from $3.50 to $4.25 per hour.

LAZ Rate Change sticker

We’ve confirmed reports and sources that have said the next most expensive areas, mainly adjacent to downtown, were already switched over from $2 per hour to $2.50 per hour last week.

The majority of the pay boxes in the outlying neighborhoods are now in the midst of being converted from $1 to $1.25 per hour and seem to be on pace for completion by early next week according to sources.

Chicago Parking Meters, LLC
claims the rate transition process will be completed by the end of the month, but sources and logic tell us it should be much sooner.

LAZ Single Head rate change

In addition,the remaining 600+ traditional single-space meters are being changed concurrently to the higher rates.

Also, even though pay box clocks seem to be keeping time accurately now and seem to be in sync, even with this new rate increase, CPM is still honoring the free two minutes to make sure all paying motorists were not in danger of getting a parking ticket at the very second a meter receipt expired.

GEEK TIP: If you see an LAZ rate change crew switching over a pay box, pull over immediately.

Park, and then approach the opened pay box being attended to by the crew, with quarter or credit card in hand,  as if you wish to “pay” for your parking.

Most likely, since the pay box is temporarily inoperable, one of the two crew members will kindly offer you a pre-printed meter receipt allowing you to park for FREE anywhere within the $1.25 zone for the better part of the day.

Make sure you thank the polite meter technicians, and then park wherever you like without depleting the stash of quarters in your pocket for the rest of the day, or whenever the receipt expires.

Of course, you won’t be able to park at downtown pay boxes or at any other more expensive meters for free, but at least it’s something.

Free parking is always a great thing.

CORRECTION: According to Avis LaVelle, spokesperson for CPM, single-space meters are currently not being changed to the new rates. Instead, they will be converted to the higher rates after all the pay boxes are changed.

Airport Parking Rates Go Up

Airport Parking Sign

If  you park at either Chicago airport, be prepared to pay more this year.

According to Chicago Breaking News, the Chicago Department of Transportation announced on December 31st, that parking rates for most parking lots at both O’Hare and Midway would go up on last Monday, January 4th.

Prices at all long-term parking lots will go up by $1.

Most short term parking remains the same and cell phone parking lots are still free.

For the full details, check out Chicago Breaking News or for more info go to

The last minute announcement, made the evening just before a major holiday, is a tactic used by politicians to duck the media spotlight.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Catch the Geek on Vocalo Radio Monday evening (1/11) after 5:00 or so. Tune in over the air at 89.5 FM or stream it live.

Saturday Morning On WGN Radio


The Geek is headed downtown Saturday morning to spend a half-hour on ChicagoNow Radio which airs on WGN 720 AM.

Joining CTA Tattler proprieter Kevin O’Neill, the Geek and Mr. O’Neill will discuss getting around the city during the winter.

Both CTA Tattler and The Parking Ticket Geek are contributors to ChicagoNow.

ChicagoNow Radio, which airs every Saturday from 9AM to 1PM, is hosted by the affable and funny Bill Leff, who is so kind, that he doesn’t roll his eyes or shake his head at the stupid things that tumble out of the Geek’s mouth.

The Geek invites you to ruin your Saturday morning by listening to WGN Radio 720 AM at 9:30 AM.

Should Police Be Allowed To Park Illegally?


“Hey Parking Ticket Geek, is there anything the Chicago Po-Po can’t getaway with? ” P, a friend of the website asked regarding the above photo he sent. “The other day I was running back to my car in Wicker Park to add more money in the meter and look what I found!  It was parked on Milwaukee Ave, just east of Damen & Division.

Great question P.

But I’m not sure I have an answer. I go back and forth on this issue myself.

But generally speaking, I am comfortable with cops parking illegally when grabbing coffee or a sandwich. My thinking is, if they need to respond to a crime or emergency, I would prefer the officers to be able to jump in the police car and rush off to catch the bad guy.

So, I just look the other way.

But, I’m reasonably confident most readers don’t agree with my point of view.

What do YOU think?

The Geek wants your opinion.

Should cops be able to park illegally?

Should this police car have received a parking ticket?


Special thanks to P for the great photo.

Big Storm Coming, Watch Out For Possible 2″ Parking Ban



Some heavy snows are headed our way.

So, just to be careful, keep an eye out and ear open for the 2″ snow ban.

The ban, if enacted, will force motorists to move their cars from hundreds of miles of Chicago’s main arterial streets when there’s two or more inches of snow on the ground so Chicago snow plows can clear the streets.

When the ban is in effect, your car could be ticketed and towed and relocated to a nearby location to let the plows do their work.

Streets and Sanitation is pretty judicious about triggering the 2″ ban, and didn’t enact it in either 2008 or 2009.

“We rarely activate the 2 inch ban,” says a tired and overworked Matt Smith, spokesperson for Streets and Sanitation, who’s spent all day answering the media’s questions about the impending storm.

This is not a recommendation to rush out and move your car if it’s parked on one of those main drags right now. But based on the weather forecasts, you should pay attention to the radio, TV news and of course this website just in case.

If you subscribe to our Twitter feed, we’ll alert you as soon as we get word of a potential ban.

Here’s a map of the streets that would be covered, a listing of the streets which would be affected and our detail laden explanation of the 2″ snow ban.

City Warns Of Parking Ticket Payment Scam


Many Chicago drivers feel victimized by the level of parking enforcement in the city and the seemingly increasing amount of parking tickets being issued.

But recently, it seems that some ticketed drivers are falling prey to a parking ticket payment scam outside Department of Revenue payment centers.

The hustle goes like this. Motorists coming into one of five city payment centers to pay their parking tickets are approached by con artists outside the center, usually in the parking lot according to the DOR. Since City Hall the payment center located at the Central Hearing Facility don’t have parking lots, this scam is most likely occurring outside the Addison St., South Kedzie or 95th St. locations.

The con men claim to be city or DOR employees or just have inside access to city databases and, by paying them for a fraction of what the motorist owes in cash, they can make violations disappear.

Drivers thinking their getting over on the city, are actually being conned out of their hard earned money and will still have their parking tickets to pay.

“These criminals are not City employees and have no access to adjust City records,” says DOR spokesperson Ed Walsh via e-mail. “Customers are warned not to give these criminals any money. The amounts owed the city will not be adjusted in any way and will remain fully due. While these incidents have been rare, customers who are approached regarding this scam should immediately call 911.”

Of course, like the old adage goes, “if it’s too good to be true…”

Do not fall for this scheme. Always make payments inside a facility where you can get a receipt as proof of payment. Report any suspicious behavior to 911.

Parking Meter Rate Changes Begin Today


Make sure you put some extra quarters in your pocket Monday morning.

Because the waiting is over, and Chicago’s parking meters will begin charging more starting January 4th, according to Chicago Parking Meters, LLC.

Downtown meters, which currently charge $3.50 per hour will increase 75 cents to $4.25 per hour. In areas like the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park or areas just outside of downtown, meters which are currently $2.00 per hour will go up 50 cents to $2.50 per hour. And in all other areas, where meters currently charging $1.00 an hour, will now be $1.25 per hour.

While this increase is on average, a 25% increase, it’s a 500% increase 12 months ago when meter rates were substantially lower before the city leased it’s 36,000+ metered parking system to CPM for 75 years for $1.16 billion dollars in December 2008.

The concession contract calls for rate increases for the first five years of the agreement, with potential cost of living increase after that.

Expect that the city’s most expensive metered spots, located downtown in the central business district, will all be changed by the end of the day Monday.

LAZ Parking work crews, the operational partner for CPM, will have 10 teams of two people working outward into the neighborhoods over the course of the next week or so to complete the job as rapidly as possible.

While CPM publicly claims they will have all 4100+ pay boxes and 600 or so traditional single-space meters converted to reflect the new, higher rates by the end of the month, expect that this process should go much faster than that. Most, if not all meters should be changed by January 15th.

Although there may be some confusion in this transitional period, just make sure you read the rate information posted on all the pay boxes and meters. But also check the digital readout on the pay boxes and your meter receipt against the posted information to make sure you are paying the posted amount and/or don’t pay for enough time.

If there is a problem or discrepancy with a pay box or meter, contact the customer service hotline for CPM at 877-242-7901 or report the problem at the company’s website.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’re up early enough Monday morning (after 6:40 AM) you can catch the Parking Ticket Geek discussing the meter rate increases with Bob Sirott on WGN Radio 720 AM.