Parking Meter Rates Jump January 1st
$5 Per Hour Downtown Rates Highest In Nation
No, not Christmas or New Year’s, but parking meter rate increase season.
It was three years ago this month when Mayor Daley and his cohorts in the city council pushed through the Chicago parking meter lease deal.
One of the more onerous results of the 75-year deal was an initial five years of steep meter rate price increases.
On January 1st, parking meter rates will rise for the third of the five initial years.
Downtown, meter rates will jump $0.75 from $4.25 per hour to $5.00 an hour–giving Chicago the distinction of having the highest downtown parking meter rates in the nation.
New York, and Los Angeles, while both larger than Chicago, have lower downtown rates than the Windy City. New York’s highest rate is currently $3.75 an hour, while LA tops out at $4 per hour downtown.
In areas adjacent to the Loop (River North, Gold Coast, parts of Lincoln Park, Near North) rates will go up $0.50 per hour from $2.50 to $3.00 per hour.
Meter rates in all other outlying neighborhoods will increase just $0.25 from $1.25 per hour to $1.50 per hour.
While the rate increase is a 17% jump downtown and 20% everywhere else, it’s a 600% increase over the past three years at the majority of metered spaces, which used to be a paltry $0.25 per hour.
“It’s the most frustrating thing about this whole thing,” said Logan Square resident Emma Nolley feeding a paybox while being asked about the rate increases. “It’s out of control. Rates keep on rising, the ticketing hasn’t decreased, people are not driving less like they thought. It’s frustrating and there’s nothing we can do.”
“There’s another price increase?” exclaimed another woman who stormed off in anger before we could get her name. “Oh my God! I don’t believe it! I’m moving out of Chicago. It’s gotten too expensive to live here.”
Aimee Zander, Executive Director of the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce was also unaware of the rate bump.
“No, I was not aware of that–a quarter an hour?” said Zander. “Crazy.”
The West Ridge chamber represents businesses centered around Devon and Western and is located in the 50th ward. An area with a heavy concentration of ethnic businesses primarily catering to a virtual United Nations of recent and first generation immigrants.
“I know for a fact our business owners are going to flip out,” says Zander. “I bet nobody knows about this. Daily I get complaints about the meter rates. They’re furious because we don’t have any options where to park like public garages or lots. People are coming less frequently. You can tell by the number of cars on the street–less people are coming.”
But Gus Isacson, Executive Director of the Central Lakeview Merchants Association shrugs off the idea that extra quarter an hour is going to effect business for retailers in his part of the city.
“They’re (business owners) are not concerned about it,” said Isacson. “It’s not the price it’s the inconvenience of going to the (pay) box that bothers everyone.”
While the rate increases officially go into effect New Year’s Day, most motorists will not see these increases immediately. Each of of the over 4000 meter pay boxes will have to have their rates manually increased and the signs reflecting the pricing will have to be changed on each box. Same goes for the approximately 600 traditional single head meters which remain on city streets.
Although spokesmen for Chicago Parking Meters, LLC did not return e-mails with questions regarding the time line for this year’s rate changeover, last year it took four to six weeks to complete the process city wide.
While meter rates will increase $0.75 per hour downtown, $0.50 just outside downtown and a quarter everywhere else every January 1st through 2013, meter rates could still continue to increase per the meter lease. Future rate increases would be tied to cost of living increases.
“It could go up every year for the next 72 years,” says 32nd ward alderman Scott Waguespack, the most vocal opponent of the meter lease agreement. “The parking meter lease deal was the harbinger of the fiscal stability of the city and the parking meter rate increases are just a constant reminder of the situation were in right now.”