I-Team: The Chicago Transit Audacity

May 13, 2009 (CHICAGO) The Chicago Transit Audacity is just what it looks like to people searching for parking spots around the agency's headquarters west of the Loop.

You probably wouldn't get very far if you tried to use an expired CTA pass to ride the El or a city bus. But expired is just what the I-Team found flashing on meters surrounding Chicago Transit headquarters, where official CTA vehicles were parked.

From unmarked CTA sedans with municipal plates registered to the CTA to the familiar white SUVs and utility trucks that each have that familiar CTA logo, around headquarters the I-Team found them all parked at expired meters.

"Everytime you want to try to park a car you can't park your car, and it's unfair for all of these meters that they're not fed. And I come along and put a quarter in there for 7 minutes and ya know end up getting a ticket for it," said Vasken Avakian, resident.

There are several public parking lots nearby, including this one right across the street from where we found CTA vehicles parked at expired meters. And it wasn't just once that the I-Team checked.

On six different days, at different times, over the last several weeks, we surveyed the street spots around CTA headquarters.

Each day we found dozens of CTA vehicles parked at expired meters and watched as employees drove off without having fed the meters.

"If they're parked at a meter, they're expected to pay the meter, they're expected to park in legal spaces, and not park illegally," said Noelle Gaffney, CTA spokesperson.

CTA officials say their vehicles should also not park in handicapped spots, including the one right in front of their headquarters; where we regularly found transit authority vehicles ignoring well-marked signs.

After new CTA President Richard Rodriguez learned of our investigation, he personally began walking around the building taking down the license plates of CTA violators, according to his spokeswoman, Noelle Gaffney.

"There is some discipline that's been reported, some departments have been told that their vehicles have been seen down here not paid at meters. They're supposed to be meeting with those employees, finding out what the circumstances were and administering discipline as appropriate," said Gaffney.

Apparently the CTA boss missed one. As I was interviewing Ms. Gaffney, a CTA car was down the street parked in a spot with an expired meter.

On the same block, a city ticket-writer was at work made her way toward the CTA car with municipal plates.

Even though the CTA car was parked illegally, she never even checked and didn't issue a ticket, walking right past the CTA car not just once, but twice.

"They keep passing by the cars every time, ya' know, city license plate, which is unmarked vehicle cars. They just walk right by it," said Avakian.

More than once we saw a ticket-writer ignore illegally parked CTA vehicles, even though the CTA (and the city) say that's not the policy.

"It is our understanding is that the police are out here enforcing the meters and the CTA vehicles do get ticketed," said Gaffney.

It does take a lot of quarters to park at city meters. Prices went up when the city sold off street parking enforcement in February to a private company for more than a billion dollars. In some places, the new rate is 25 cents for only six minutes.

We did see city ticket-writers citing illegally parked personal vehicles, including one right across from the CTA main entrance.

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