Chicago’s $2 Congestion Fee Driving Critics Crazy

It seems the only person who likes Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s congestion fee idea is…Rahm Emanuel.

Mayor Emanuel, in his effort to bring new revenue to the city and fill the budget deficit, is proposing adding a $2 per day fee to the cost of parking in both private and public parking garages and lots in Chicago. The idea is to discourage people from driving and instead use public transportation, bike or walk to work.

The $2 fee would be used to invest in public transportation, install more bike lanes and improve pedestrian safety.

In other words, motorists would pay more to facilitate others who don’t choose to drive.

Not only is the idea getting poor reviews from drivers, but transportation experts are panning the idea as well according to a story by National Public Radio.

NPR interviewed Prof. Donald Shoup, the UCLA professor who wrote The High Cost of Free Parking. Shoup actually doesn’t think $2 is enough to dissuade drivers from um…driving. But at the core of Shoup’s criticism is his belief that cities must get a handle on the cost of their metered parking. Shoup thinks curb parking must be tied to supply and demand, reflecting the true market cost to park on the street.

Great idea. Wonderful suggestion.

One problem.

Chicago does not control its metered parking anymore!

Mayor Daley leased Chicago parking meters to Morgan Stanley back in December, 2008, and all the rates and subsequent rate hikes are set in the municipal code and in the contract with the aptly named Chicago Parking Meters, LLC.

Thus, future mayors, Emanuel included, can never get a grip on the true cost of metered parking.

Here’s NPR’s full story and audio, “Chicago’s ‘Congestion Fee’ Gets Chilly Reception.”

12 Responses to Chicago’s $2 Congestion Fee Driving Critics Crazy

  1. glg says:

    Idiot Prof. The hike is for garages, not meters

  2. Jeff says:

    Eh, glg, if you actually read the article, it quotes Shoup as saying “I do not think a $2-a-day charge on off-street parking is the way to go.” So obviously he knew the fee was not on metered parking. You actually have to read and comprehend a bit to understand how they’re related. Difficult, I know.

  3. TheReader says:

    Actually, its the Parking Meter geek causing the confusion. This story goes from referencing offstreet parking to parking meters.

    Oh, and the City does control parking meter rates.

    So other than getting those two things wrong, this was a great read.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Congestion charges work around the world…..I bet Chicago will fuck it up.

  5. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Mr. Reader,

    Where’s the confusion?

    I explain pretty clearly that Prof. Shoup is addressing the issue of congestion pricing but doesn’t think adding $2 to garage parking is the answer. He believes cities, if they want to address congestion, need to start with the price of metered parking–not garage parking.

    I also never mention control of the parking meter rates. I state that CPM controls the meter system now and that the rates and increases were agreed to in the contract with Morgan Stanley and written into the muni code.

    But as you know, despite the fact that the city sets the rates, the reality is if the city council decides to make all meters 25 cents an hour or change the rates in anyway, the city would have to pay financial damages to CPM per the contract.

    So, the city is handcuffed in its ability to change meter rates.

    I respectfully ask you to please read the post again, because I think you’re mistaken in your assessment.

  6. Salty Tea says:

    Rahm is so dumb. This is how to solve the budget problem:

    Step 1: legalize it
    Step 2: tax it
    Step 3: profit

  7. If the city, state or nation wants money to balance their Mis-managed budgets other things have to happen first. Encourage not discourage industry and business success by all levels of government by less restrictions. Government has no business telling businesses how to run their businesses if they do no harm to others (read Gibson Guitar example). Reduce the volumes of required useless government paperwork. Make government REALLY TRANSPARENT!

  8. Andrew says:

    If this city actually wanted to balance the budget….

    They need to fire 25 alderman first…

    Then they need to fire 50 of the so called “exempt” positions that cost the budget 100k or more a year in salary.

    Then they need to get City Council to actually FIGHT the frivolous lawsuits that get filed every day for bullshit reasons.

    Then they need to elect me God-Mayor for a term…and I’ll do the Rest.

  9. Pete says:

    What we need is a mayor that is not beholden to labor unions or crony contractors, both of which are bleeding the city dry. In other words, a mayor who could never get elected here.

  10. TheReader says:


    C’mon man, seriously? This is a story about a congestion tax on OFF-STREET PARKING (all caps for effect, not yelling). Garages and lots and the like. Your article begins discussing the actual topic at hand and then BOOM (all caps for yelling and effect) let’s talk about parking meters.

    Parking meters have nothing to do with this topic. Zero.

    Then there is your exact quote “One problem. Chicago does not control its metered parking anymore!”. Really? You don’t see the issue.

    I’m not a parking expert like you, but my understanding is the City gets paid if it raises rates above what they “set in the municipal code and in the contract with the aptly named Chicago Parking Meters, LLC”

    So what am I missing?

  11. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    Let’s be clear here, I was writing about an NPR story about the $2 congestion tax. I linked to the original story (twice) within my post.

    I didn’t just pull the topic of metered parking out of my butt. I was quoting the article, which was quoting Prof. Shoup who, in his criticism of the $2 congestion tax said, in his opinion, the best way to tackle congestion is to make sure on street parking (parking meters) reflect the market based price for parking. It was Shoup and NPR who jumped from the topic of off street parking to metered parking–I just wrote about this change in topic.

    What NPR (and the Trib in a previous story) and Prof. Shoup all missed is that the parking meter lease contract inhibits the city’s ability to make changes to parking meter rates. I was just pointing out several things.

    1-An expert on parking, congestion and street parking believes the Mayor’s $2 congestion fee is not good policy.
    2-An expert on parking, congestion and street parking believes Chicago should alter its metered parking to reflect market pricing.
    3-The city is restricted in what it can do to adjust the price of parking meter prices due to the parking meter lease deal.
    4-The NPR reporter and Dr . Shoup, missed point 3.

    Does that make more sense?

  12. [...] a price of $32 / day!  Those prices are guaranteed to go up again in 2012, with the passing of the $2 City of Chicago Congestion tax being added on to every spot [...]

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