Drivers May Keep Expired Meter Grace Period
Waguespack To Extend 5-Minute Grace Period Beyond April 1
With just a few weeks before Mayor Daley’s five minute grace period for expired meter violations quietly sunsets on April 1st, 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack has jumped in to help drivers by introducing an amendment to make this ordinance permanent.
Smarting from a constant barrage of criticism over his handling of the privatization of Chicago’s parking meter system, Daley introduced an ordinance early last year that would give drivers parked in a metered space a 5-minute grace period to save them from a $50 ticket if they were a few moments late returning to their car.
The Mayor tossed this olive branch at furious drivers, who were experiencing a second year of parking meter rate increases which jacked up rates by 500%, and who were still universally hated Daley’s meter lease deal.
Daley’s grace period gave drivers who received an expired meter violation five minutes or less from the expiration time on the pay box meter receipt, could have their parking tickets “non-suited”, or in other words thrown out. Vehicle owners were only allowed one of these free passes once per year.
Since the ordinance passed February 10th of last year, the city has thrown out 3,824 tickets under this grace period provision.
14 Months Of Grace Period, While Lease Lasts 75 Years?
But while the media ran with the feel good nature of the Mayor’s gesture last year, nearly everyone missed one important detail. Despite the fact the length of the parking meter lease contract is 75 years, Daley’s grace period ends just 14 months after it became law.
The April 1st expiration of the grace period is, by some coincidence, comes just weeks after the primary election and a few days after the runoff election.
Waguespack introduced an amendment to the municipal code on February, 2nd eliminating the end date language for the grace period.
But why would the Mayor cut a break to drivers feeling the effects of the new and vastly higher parking meter rates by introducing a law that ends after just 14 months when the meter lease deal would end 74 years later in 2084?
“It is not unusual for sunset provisions to be included in ordinances,” explained Department of Revenue spokesperson Ed Walsh when asked about the short life of the Mayor’s ordinance. “The Mayor proposed and the City Council approved the original ordinance in February 2010. At that time, the pay boxes being installed by the concessionaire were new to many motorists, and the proposal was written to provide some time for motorists to grow accustomed to using them. ”
“Further, the change was designed to assist motorists who are ticketed for accidentally overstaying the time on their pay box receipt by a few minutes despite trying to comply with parking requirements by purchasing adequate parking time.”
Waguespack, the most outspoken critic of Mayor Daley’s parking meter privatization deal was also critical of the short shelf life of Daley’s grace period.
“For him it was purely political–he tried to show good will to people even though he blew the lease deal,” says Waguespack. “Basically he did it as a short term stunt to get through all the negative feedback on the deal. It should be forever or at least for the next 75 years.”
Possibility Grace Period Extension Could Cost City
One possible explanation for the short life of the law would be language in the parking meter lease contract that could cost the city money.
Under the enforcement section of the contract, if the city eases enforcement in any way that might adversely impact meter revenues to Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, it could trigger what’s called a “compensation event.”
It’s feasible under the broad language of the contract, the city would be compelled to pay CPM for this reduction in enforcement.
But Walsh disagrees.
“First, the impact of a ‘grace period’ is not something specifically addressed in the agreement,” says Walsh. “And any extension of the term of the existing 5-minute grace period ordinance wouldn’t necessarily constitute a compensation event under the agreement any more than the grace period does now. Per the agreement, for any City action to constitute a “compensation event,” the
concessionaire would have to prove that it suffered a loss due to that action.”
According to Ald. Waguespack, his amendment should come up at the next meeting of the Committee on Traffic Control and Safety on Tuesday, March 8th.