I didn't have any change on me today so, for the first time, I used my ATM card to purchase 5 minutes of street parking in Chicago (25 cents). I was introduced to self-ticketing parking in France back in 2001. I thought it was a great idea and figured it would just be a matter of time before the system was adopted in American cities. There are no individually marked, metered spaces. Just squeeze in anywhere you can fit and leave the receipt visible on the dashboard.
But the transition to the new system in Chicago has not been without controversy. With the approval of the city council, Mayor Daley sold the city's metered street parking to a private firm for an upfront cash payment of $1.2 billion. Actually, it's a 75-year lease, but a private firm will operate metered city parking for the rest of my life.
Part of the controversy is related to the sale price negotiated by Daley. Some estimates say that the mayor only got half of what he should have demanded in the deal. The mayor argues that there wasn't time to find the best private deal because the city needed an immediate and massive cash infusion. After the fact, when the shit hit the fan, aldermen complained that the mayor forced a bad deal on them. Perhaps. But I think most of them are just trying to cover their political asses.
City residents are also upset because street parking rates are rising drastically. On the street outside my office, for example, rates have gone from $1 to $4 per hour and will rise to $6 per hour when the transition is complete. Local merchants complain that they are losing traffic and sales because shoppers don't linger. Another complaint is that early in the transition thousands of drivers received parking tickets after using broken meters. Then there was the sabotage--superglue and foreign objects jammed into coin slots by enraged citizens.
The private firm that took over operations has admitted that they were undermanned and unprepared for the transition.
Apart from all the controversy, I do like the convenience of the new system. And with the increased price of parking, it is easier to find street parking these days. But, I must admit, I could be the only person in Chicago who isn't angry about this. At least it seems that way.
The machine in the photo above is from another city (Seattle?). We have a 2-hour parking limit here.