Chicago Clinches Title For Nation’s Highest Parking Meter Rates

Downtown Meter Rates Hit $6.50 Per Hour January 1st

Chicago's downtown parking meter rates will be the highest in the nation when meter rates go up on January 1st.

Another year, another parking meter price hike.

Chicago motorists will celebrate the start of 2013 by ringing a fifth consecutive year of parking meter rate increases, further insuring the Windy City retains its title for the nation’s most expensive parking meters.

Back in December, 2008 the city council approved a privatization deal put together by then Mayor Richard Daley, which leased the city’s metered parking spaces to a private firm for $1.16 billion dollar. But as part of that 75-year agreement, the city agreed to allow meter rates to rise annually for the contract’s initial five years, ultimately making Chicago’s downtown rates the highest in nation.

“Five years later, I still talk to people and businesses that still get upset about it,” said Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), who led the fight against the meter privatization five years ago. “When they see rates go up, it reminds them how bad the deal is in perpetuity.”

Just four years ago, most parking meters were just a paltry 25 cents per hour. In just over a week though, rates will rise 25 cents an hour in most neighborhoods from the current $1.75 to $2.00, while second tier pricing in what’s considered the Central Business District (neighborhoods adjacent to the Loop like River North, Gold Coast, South Loop), prices will go up 50 cents per hour from $3.50 to $4.00 . Downtown parking meters will see the largest increase, jumping up 75 cents an hour and moving from the current $5.75 per hour to a whopping $6.50 per hour.

Some Chicago drivers were surprised rates were going up again in 2013.

“I didn’t know it was being raised,” said a woman who only gave her name as Angela, feeding a parking meter paybox on Lincoln Avenue in the Lakeview neighborhod. “I think it’s really frustrating.”

Despite 2013 being the last of the five years of initial price increases, parking meter rates can still rise annually. According to the contract future rate increases would be tied to the rate of inflation.

“I don’t like it, I’m not a fan,” said Jordan Williams who lives in the Old Irving neighborhood. “I think the money should to to paving streets and not LAZ Parking (the company which manages the operations for Chicago Parking Meters, LLC).”

“It seems like rates on about everything are going up,” said Lanie Shiller of Lakeview. “It’s ridiculous.”

While Chicago’s 2012 meter rates ranked highest in the U.S., according to an annual report issued by San Francisco’s SFPark, within the first few days of 2013, Chicago will overtake Vancouver, BC (where the maximum rate is now $6.00 per hour) for the title of having the costliest parking meters in all of North America.

Since SFMTA’s report came out in early 2012, the rates in some cities have risen. In the U.S., the Windy City’s ranking as number one is followed by San Francisco ($5.50/hr) New York ($5/hr), Los Angeles ($5/hr), and Seattle ($4/hr) based on research by The Expired Meter.

Read more at DNA Info Chicago.

31 Responses to Chicago Clinches Title For Nation’s Highest Parking Meter Rates

  1. Adam Smith says:

    It’s amazing that five years later, the public still doesn’t understand that the money doesn’t go to LAZ.

  2. Jeff says:

    Those parking meter boxes are like tombstones for the countless Chicago businesses that have closed since 2008. Why in the world would anyone intentionally pay $2-$6.50 an hour for the privilege of parking on a city street, when the same services and goods can be found outside the city or online? All the stupid bike lanes and road diets in the world aren’t gonna bring back the businesses that these parking meters have killed off.

  3. Klaats says:

    LAZ or Chicago Parking Meters LLC. Regardless, the money still doesn’t go to improve Chicago. WORST deal ever. So many of the city’s financial woes could be alleviated if city just had the foresight to manage these meters themselves. “The agreement stipulates that Chicago Parking Meters LLC receives all associated revenue from the parking meter system, with the exception of fines, until 2084. Chicago Parking Meters LLC subcontracts with LAZ Parking for the management and maintenance of all Chicago’s meters.”

  4. Lauren says:

    Chicago seems to be willing to do anything to make a quick buck up front with minimal thought to the future and how it will affect the city. It’s ridiculous! Chicago is such a great city but you’d think the people running it would actually care about keeping it that way but they don’t. Whatever they can do to make more money…

  5. Jennifer says:

    Why doesn’t the Illinois legislature pass a tax on income derived from private company parking fees? The state can then do a revenue share with the city to pay these ridiculous fees. And the tax would be fair because the city would not impose it. If the terms are too severe for the private parking company, then maybe it is time to renegotiate this deal.

  6. Nash in Sauganash says:

    I live NW so I shop suburban malls with FREE parking. Mostly Touhy-Central and Harlem-Irving, sometimes Golf-Mill or Old Orchard, but not Touhy-McCormick – it’s too rough with some bad Evanstonians.

  7. Krishna Patel says:

    Why do some of the above posters think that simply it was a bad deal? This was more of a giveaway at a fire sale price to a private entity for a paltry amount of dollars. A sixth grader could have easily done the math and conclude that receiving two billion dollars for a 75 year lease was a poor investment. So poor that it could only be considered an inside deal.

    After this fiasco the then Mayor Daley wanted to lease the Chicago Water System, Lake Shore Drive and Midway Airport. None of those materialized because of the credit crisis of 2008. But now the mayor is about to lease Midway Airport.

    Oh but not to worry my fellow Chicagoans. We just paved some brand spanking new bike paths for your enjoyment.

  8. Bruce says:

    My wife and I had lunch at Subway last Sunday for less than $5.00. What can you buy with $6.50? Almost 3 gallons of milk or 2 gallons of gasoline to drive elsewhere. It would be good for your health and your wallet to support public transportation and boycott parking in the City!

  9. Len says:

    and Rahm Emenuel also stopped any chance of the city fighting the deal by telling the judge in the private lawsuit to stop the private attorneys. So Rahms just lying when he tells us he is working for the taxpayers.

  10. B says:

    How many people perceive government clouds what this deal and others are.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Even sadder is the fact that the downtown parking rate is but 75 cent shy of the federal minimum wage. A minimum wage worker would literally be better off being a parking space (no payroll or income tax) than as a human being.

    Yet employers demand that workers be mind readers and to pay them less than that parking space.

  12. ejhickey says:

    “Another year, another parking meter price hike.”

    who sez chicago doesn’t have great traditions.

  13. Greg says:

    Another reason why I have not once – and I mean, not once – paid these meters since the deal.

    They have not received one quarter from me, and they never will.

    Occasionally, I simply don’t pay the meters – but this is mostly in areas I frequent often, but have never seen a ticket writer and have never seen a ticket on any car. But mostly its because I have become an expert in knowing where the free spaces are, even in the Loop.

    Another secret – if you are going to to be in the Loop for more than an hour or so, park just outside of the Loop and take the L. Easier parking, less traffic, and round trip L is the same as 40 minutes of parking. I will often park right by the North Ave Red line. Or by Racine Blue Line or Ashland Green line. Plenty of street parking, especially if it is day time. Don’t have to fight Loop traffic, few minutes ride to the Loop, and round trip is $4.50 ($2.50 is it is less than 2 hours in between rides.) If you are in the Loop for 2 hours, its $13.00. And you don’t have to worry if it unexpectedly takes more than 2 hours, like you have to worry about the meter running out.

  14. [...] 26, 2012 Chicago Clinches Title For Nation’s Highest Parking Meter Rates Another year, another parking meter price hike. Chicago motorists will celebrate the start of 2013 [...]

  15. Joe Darling says:

    Fight back! Look at this smartphone app invented in Australia.

  16. maria says:

    I wish the media would tell the full story. Chicago Parking Meters LLC is owned by a SOVEREIGN WEALTH FUND meaning it is unclear as to who the exact owners are, SWF are not register entities. But the majority of the fund is owned by middle eastern countries who bought the lease for 75 years – yes, 75 YEARS. Read the book, Griftopia written by Matt Tiabbi to get the full explanation, but this was one of the dirtiest back end deals in American history and BEWARE, other cities and states are preparing to sell and or rent off other American assets like the Pennsylvania Turnpike, etc. We need to be vigilant and write to our elected officials and we need to say NO. Aren’t we already giving the middle east enough money through the fuel we purchase? Why can’t this money stay here at home?

  17. [...] city has officially earned a title Chicago residents are dreading…the most expensive parking meters in the nation.  Effective January 1, 2013, get ready to dish out even more when parking in the city; including [...]

  18. Pete says:

    By 2020 the meters will be $10 an hour, and will sit unused. Except in the loop, where garage parking will cost $50 for 2 hours. Yay for the city that used to work.

  19. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    I think you may be the patron saint for Chicago parkers.

    It is INCREDIBLE that anyone has been able to avoid parking at meters and when actually parked in a metered zone, did not pay nor get ticketed in the past five years. AMAZING!

    Maybe we need to establish a database of cool little free parking spaces in and/or around metered zones. I certainly have a mental list of secret spots I park to avoid paying the meters.

    BTW: Great advice for drivers wishing to avoid paying for parking. Great stuff.

  20. DoR Employee says:

    I predict that the Parking Lots and Pay to Park Lots in the Loop and Central Business District will also see an increase in cost shortly after the beginning of the year…

    That there is another lease that Rahm should tear up….get the City Owned Lots back into earning money for the city. Keep the Lot Rates cheaper than the meter rates and sit back and count the profit for the city…in parking revenue and of course compliance ticket revenue.

    At the current rate….CPM stands to re-coup its’ 1.1 billion outlay withing the next 15 years easy…between actual meter revenue and true up payments from HCP vehicles and closures. That’s if you figure annual meter revenue at around 60 million and true up revenue around 25m per year…they hit 850 million after the first 10 years of the lease…approx numbers of course.

  21. DoR Employee says:

    And it isn’t hard to locate spots in the Loop that are “Outside of Metered Spaces.”

    Just be careful….I’ve noticed in the past few months that CDOT is putting down lines around the spaces that are Pay Box locations and including lines on a diagonal slant in the areas that are outside of the Posted Green Pay Box (arrowed) signs that DON”T have Tow Zone Signs.

    As a reminder…once lines hit the pavement….Park Outside of Metered Space Tickets can be issued…even if the meters are NOT active.

  22. Greg says:

    Dor -

    I love your idea of the city taking the garages back. The problem is, right now, that the meters – as expensive as they are – are cheaper than almost any garage. Its ridiculous than so many garages boast $6 for the first 20 minutes – who the hell pulls into a garage for 20 minutes? Then it jumps upwards of $15 to $20 for an hour.

    Just think how much the city would make if they had garages that charged $5 an hour. The initial thought on there part would be that its too cheap – but I would guess so many people would park there, the sheer numbers would make them profitable.

    Talk about sticking it to CPM…

    There’s a garage on Lake around Clark that charges $14 flat rate evenings and weekends. By far the cheapest I’ve seen. Sometimes a bit of a walk when I am in the Loop, but compared to other garages that would cost $30 for the same time, or $13 for meters for 2 hours – its so worth the walk.

    And LaSalle, Lake, and Clark have a lot of free parking after 6:00 and on weekends.

  23. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Greg, etal,

    I have a theory that downtown parking lot rates will go up in the next year. Maybe not everywhere, but in the aggregate.

    Metered spaces compete with lots and garages.

    With meter rates going up, it stands to reason parking lots and garages can also increase their rates as well.

    Just a theory.

  24. [...] The Windy City has won the parking lottery — It now has the highest on street rates in North America with $6.50 an hour in its fabled ‘loop’ area.  It is followed by San Francisco ($5.50/hr) New York ($5/hr), Los Angeles ($5/hr), and Seattle ($4/hr) based on research by The Expired Meter. [...]

  25. Zak says:

    After a recent visit to Chicago, I was left wondering, Who enforces or pays for the enforcement of the parking meters? If the LLC owns the rights to all the ticket revenue, who gets the revenue for the parking citations? Is City of Chicago police enforcing the meters? What happens to me in non-payment, can I go to jail? Is it a civil matter much like not paying my phone bill would be?

  26. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Chicago meters are enforced by LAZ for CPM, city PEAs, SERCO (a private firm) and sometimes cops but not very often.

    All the fines go to the city.

    If you don’t pay, you won’t go to jail. But if you get too many unpaid tickets your car could be booted.

  27. Pete says:

    Chicago now has the most expensive parking in the nation! Even Manhattan garages don’t charge $75 for 24 hours.

  28. Green Line says:

    This is a stupid article. So what Chicago is a mere $1.50 more than New York and a mere dollar more than San Francisco. Both SF and NY have bridges that will punch you in the face with their toll rates. SF’s bridges are from the city to suburban areas north and east of the city which is bad enough, but NY’s is even worse because you’re paying an exorbitant amount just to move around in the city limits; Manhattan to Brooklyn, Manhattan to Queens, Borrklyn to Staten Island, etc. But of cousre the article fails to mention this. For a world class city with all its amenities, Chicago is actual inexpensive OVERALL. And that’s what you have to look at -everything overall. Like homes prices which are outrages in SF and NY, and SF is ranked as a lower global city. Chicago has the 4th largest economy in the world, after Tokyo, NY, and Los Angles. So if anyone thinks it’s less expensive to buy an $800,000 2-bedroom condo in a nice part of NY and pay $5 to park downtown, or buy an equivalent 2 bedroom condo in Chicago’s Gold Coast or highly-rated downtown for $400,000 and pay $6.50 to park downtown –well, you have issues. would be more concerned with Seattle bieng on this list of high downtown meters when that city (although nice enough) doesn’t even measure up to the offerings of NY, Los Angeles, Chicago, or SF. There’s your story.

  29. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Green Line,

    The point of the story is to give readers news and facts to allow them to come to their own conclusions or opinions.

    Thank you for yours, whatever that may be.

  30. Chicago860 says:

    Well, the “I can’t stop spending” city sold all its rights. Ah but magically, they got them back – by adding a tax. No – don’t address wasteful spending. Just add another tax. Like a prostitute, you got it, you sell it, you still got it. We elected these idiots. We deserve it. And, if we elect them again, we deserve a swift kick in the head.

  31. [...] to the Expired Meter, in the US Chicago takes the lead at $ 6.50 (€ 4.90) an hour, followed by San Francisco (€ [...]

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