Chicago meter rates increase again Jan. 1

December 28, 2010 (CHICAGO)

"I live down here. I pay taxes down here. My friends can't even come visit me because it's a fortune to park," said Sandra Vox, who lives in the South Loop.

The threat of being ticketed or towed, they say, is always looming.

"If you're a second, a second late, you get a ticket here," said Dwain Harroun, who lives in the South Loop.

"I've noticed over the course of the past year that it's not as difficult to find parking and I think it's probably going to become a little bit easier because people are going to be dissuaded from driving into the city," said Elisa Mangual, who lives on the West Side.

Starting New Year's Day, parking meter rates downtown will jump 75 cents, from $4.25 to $5 an hour. It'll cost 50 cents more to park just outside the Loop, and an extra quarter to park elsewhere in the city.

When Mayor Daley first introduced the parking meter deal two years ago, it was sold as a way to stave off a tax increase and help dig the city out of its budget shortfall. But some fear these new parking rates are benefitting the suburbs at the city's expense.

Executive Director Amie Zander of the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce represents business owners around Devon and Western, home to many small Indian and Pakistani shops. She says the parking rate increase may be a nail in the coffin for many businesses already hit hard by the recession.

"I think the business owners are going to be in for a real shock. I don't think they've been aware of the fact that the way this was set up that there could be an increase every year," Zander said.

In addition to the rate hikes, the lease also allows pay boxes to be installed where parking was once free as long as the total number of meters city-wide remains the same.

In the 2900-block of West Touhy, a parking box was just installed two months ago.

"The more is goes up, the more it could affect our business. The higher it goes, the more chance they're not going to want to park there. They're going to go somewhere else where it's free," said Jerry Crowley, Eastern Style Pizza.

In the Loop Tuesday night, word of another parking meter increase had drivers frustrated.

It's a little obscene," motorist Tanja Ludwig told ABC7. "Everybody's having a tough time, so I think it's going to make people think twice about driving downtown."

"They're already too high. I know they've got to make money somehow, but raising the parking rates, I don't think is the way to do it," said Pano Topalis.

Phone calls made to Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, to find out whether all of the meters would immediately reflect the increase, have not yet been returned.

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