Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: Parking Woes

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Parking Woes

Today's Trib had an update on the city of Chicago's efforts to raise parking prices efficiently. Well, not exactly the city of Chicago--more like the company that the city of Chicago leased it's parking to for 75 years at the price of $1.2 billion. Apparently, they're not doing such a great job. On the streets near Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk headquarters, parking has recently gone up from a quarter an hour to a dollar an hour. While that's still not terribly pricey, the fact that the meters are set up only to accept quarters means that you've got to feed it with eight quarters to park for two hours. Who has a constant supply of quarters with them? If you go even closer into town, the price is two dollars an hour, so you need sixteen quarters for the full two-hour term. If you're in the Loop? The Tribune says that it's up to seven dollars for two hours. Seven dollars? I did the math--that's a quarter for every 4.173 minutes. I'm not convinced that the mechanisms on the meters are that precise, but I guess I'm not really in a position to argue.

I don't know that everywhere has them yet, but a number of the streets downtown have replaced their coin meters with automatic meters that print out a tag for the time the cars are parked at that location. These machines can take nickels and dimes as well as quarters, but more importantly, they'll let you use a charge card. I was downtown on Wednesday evening, though, and it appeared to me that the printing meter near where I was parked was charging the previous three dollars an hour, or a simple five minutes for a quarter. This brings up another problem with the new parking meter company: They haven't updated all the meters. Sometimes they've changed the mechanism so that the meter will take more money, but they don't update the signage and notifications so that drivers will realize that they owe more money. And if they put in the amount they traditionally paid, the meter company will be by soon to give them a ticket.

And this doesn't even touch on the most annoying problem the meters have. If, in my neighborhood, they've gone from a quarter and hour to a dollar an hour, that means that they're receiving four times as many coins as they had been. Follow the logic a little bit, and you'll realize that this means they need to be emptied four times as often. Except that they're not. That means many of the meters are breaking down and not taking new coins--but if the meter doesn't say "Fail," there's no indication that something's wrong, and drivers who park there are going to be ticketed. The Trib offers a phone number, 744-PARK, to call if you're at a meter that's not working correctly. Ed Walsh, spokesman for the Chicago Department of Revenue, reminds us: "This can be used later as a defense to an issued ticket, if need be." A word to the wise.


At 9:13 PM, March 21, 2009, Blogger Jason said...

The other annoying thing about the new meters -- the ones that print a little receipt for you to stick on your dash -- is that they seem to be spaced roughly one per block. Which means you may well have to park, walk half a block or more to get your ticket, then walk half a block or more back to your car to stick the ticket in your car. It's not really a problem on a gorgeous day like today, but when I was doing it back in the frigid, sub-zero weather of a few months ago, I was not happy.


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