The World’s Loneliest Parking Meters
Over $400,000 Invested In Meters Where No Cars Park
Nostalgic types might consider it a sad day when the last of Chicago’s old fashioned single head parking meters got replaced in late spring in a desolate section of the near South Side.
Chicago Parking Meters, LLC recently installed over 70 pay and display machines in June, after removing the city’s last remaining single head meters a few weeks previous. But the area, roughly bounded by Ashland & Damen, between 15th and 13th has plenty of spaces to park, but with no one actually parking there.
But perhaps what is most interesting is that CPM was forced to spend over $400,000 to install expensive, cutting edge parking meter pay boxes for several thousand metered spaces, in an area that will never generate enough revenue for CPM to ever see a return on their investment there.
Lease Deal Says CPM Must Upgrade All Parking Meters
One of the few upsides to the Chicago’s universally reviled parking meter lease deal was that the new lessee for the city’s 36,000+ metered parking system must replace all the old fashioned single head meters with multispace payboxes.
The city insisted in the privatization agreement that these new payboxes allowed drivers to pay using debit and credit cards in addition to quarters and in some cases dollar coins.
Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners or Chicago Parking Meters, LLC as they are now known, did not have to replace all the single head meters right away. They were given time to make sure all metered spaces had this electronic payment option.
Impressively, CPM via LAZ Parking, switched over the majority of the system in just a few months back in 2009.
However, a handful of single head meters still existed until just recently.
This was made apparent in June, when CPM removed a few thousands of single head meters near the University of Illinois Medical District.
For some logic defying reason, the city installed these meters along blocks and blocks of vacant lots in 2008 where perhaps a car or two would park over the course of a day. Allegedly, the meters kept people from abandoning cars in this forlorn area completely devoid of homes, people, buildings, businesses or any sort of commerce.
And why would anyone pay for parking when the metered blocks are surrounded by several blocks where payment is not required?
Despite the parking meters, no cars ever seem to be parked in this essentially deserted area, but there was no way to objectively measure meter usage–until the new pay and display units were installed.
So, The Expired Meter decided to try an experiment.
The payboxes print out a receipt for each transaction that must be displayed on a vehicle’s dashboard to prove the driver has paid for parking. On each receipt a sequential transaction number prints out to further validate payment has occurred.
On June 13th, three pay boxes were randomly selected. One on 14th Street close to Damen, another on Wood Street, and a final pay box on 14th Street closer to Ashland Avenue.
In each, a quarter was deposited and a meter receipt was generated. Since the units had just been installed, each receipt displayed a very low number. The number 003 was listed on two of the receipts and 005 on a third. The assumption was the previous few transactions were test prints made by the technician(s) who installed the units.
Over five weeks later, we returned and repeated the quarter plunking process on the same three machines.
Incredibly, what all three receipts showed was not one other driver had paid for parking at all three meters in the subsequent five weeks. In fact, the last two transactions at all three meters were made by our research team.
Our researchers also determined that no less than 72 pay boxes were recently installed in this general area, with essentially no vehicles paying to use the metered spaces.
Consider that on the low end, these pay boxes manufactured by Florida based Cale Parking USA cost $6000 each. Multiply it out and conservatively CPM spent about $430,000 for these 72 pay boxes.
These parking meter pay boxes see so little use, if each of the 72 pay boxes bring in a dollar a month, it will take close to 500 years to see a cover the out of pocket expense for the units. Even if you generously calculate the revenue at $1.50 per machine per week, the 75 year long lease would be over before these meters actually made a return on investment.
Perhaps this is a case of one of the few upsides Mayor Daley’s hated parking meter lease deal. At least the taxpayers are not on the hook for this close to half million dollar outlay–at least not directly.
This website reached out via email to CPM’s spokesperson to find out why the company would invest so heavily in erecting expensive parking meters in an area where no one parks, but received no response.
So, while Chicago drivers have to endure the daily and painful reminder of how terrible Chicago’s parking meter lease deal turned out, perhaps some drivers will get a tiny bit of satisfaction from seeing the immense cash outlay for the world’s loneliest parking meters.