Committee approves meter parking plan

CHICAGO On Wednesday, the city's finance committee approved Mayor Daley's proposal to privatize parking meters in the city. The full city council will vote Thursday.

New technology will make it easier for motorists to pay to park. However, depending on how aggressive the private firm wants to get, it could also become much easier for drivers to get caught in expired spots-- and fined.

Technology that is now found in Chicago's red-light cameras may soon be at parking places around the city. Companies like Photo Violation Technologies are already pitching the group that appears close to sealing a deal to manage Chicago's 35,000 parking meters.

"Our parking meter does take pictures of those who don't pay. But having that in mind, we've made it so everyone can pay at the meter and they will never get a ticket if they're willing to pay," said Michael Kuziak, Laz Parking, Bidder to Operate Chicago Meters.

The consumer-friendly features-- which include credit card, phone and I-PASS like payment options -- are up for discussion in City Council hearings. Neither the private firm vying to operate the city's meters nor members of the Daley administration will rule out stepped-up incentives to get people to pay.

"Our core concept is going to be meter collections, it's not really enforcement. Certainly there's a lot of technology out there, it's changing very quickly," said Michael Kuziak, Laz Parking, Bidder to Operate Chicago Meters.

"Who knows in 75 years, but the reality is that the technology is expensive. It's not really proven… It's not something I anticipate anytime soon," said Bea Reyna-Hickey, Chicago Revenue director.

The firm that produces the photo violation parking meter promises the device will bring in 5-to-10 times current revenue. Other technology allows parking enforcers to automatically summon a tow truck.

"Some of the businesses are telling me, 'What are you doing to us? People are not gonna come shopping here. They'll go to shopping center with huge parking lots' and so forth," said Ald. Ray Suarez, 31st Ward.

The 75-year lease of the parking meters would bring in more than a billion dollars for the city.

The downside for parkers include:

  • increased rates,
  • no more free parking on holidays or Sundays,
  • and Loop meters that would need to be fed 24-hours a day.

    While the city will still get revenue from tickets, the private firm has a huge incentive to catch violators because the more people who pay to park, the bigger their take.

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