CHICAGO (STMW) – If you park on the street, get ready to shell out — again.
Chicago’s parking meter rates — already the highest in the U.S. — are getting another not-so-happy new year increase to as much as $5 an hour Sunday.
The 18 percent rise in the price of hourly Loop parking from $4.25 to a five-spot was agreed when the city signed its controversial deal to lease its parking meters for 75 years in 2008.
But it’s still likely to come as a shock to motorists who were paying just $3 an hour to park in the Loop only two years ago.
And the rate rises aren’t limited to the Loop.
Neighborhood parking — which cost as little as 25 cents an hour as recently as 2008 — is increasing from $1.25 to $1.50 an hour. And downtown parking outside of the Loop increases from $2.50 to $3 an hour.
The changes are due to begin Jan. 2, but it will take up to a month to change the rates at pay and display machines covering the city’s 36,000 metered spots, according to contractor Chicago Parking Meters LLC.
Mayor Daley and the City Council backed the lease of the meters two years ago to plug a massive budget gap. But the $1.15 billion the city received from Chicago Parking Meters was $974 million less than the lease was worth, Inspector General David Hoffman calculated in 2009. Now — with 72 years of the lease left to run — just $76 million of the windfall remains.
Chicago Parking Meters spokeswoman Avis LaVelle this week referred to a flawed 2008 report by real estate brokers Colliers International that suggested cities including Denver, Houston, Little Rock and West Palm Beach all charge higher rates for street parking than Chicago.
In fact, all four cities charge significantly less. The highest rate in West Palm Beach is $2 an hour, while it is $1.50 an hour in Houston, $1 an hour in Denver and 50 cents an hour in Little Rock, city spokesmen said.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), a longtime opponent of the lease deal, said that though the high rates will upset motorists, they are only a “small part of what’s wrong with the deal.”
With rates scheduled to increase to $6.50 by 2013 and in line with inflation after that, “this isn’t a problem that’s going to go away,” he added.
Mike Brockway, the so-called “parking ticket geek” who blogs about parking issues at theexpiredmeter.com, said that while the existing downtown rates were “fairly reasonable,” the blanket neighborhood rate, where it costs the same to park in busy Lincoln Park shopping streets as it does in poor neighborhoods like Englewood, “needs to be looked at again.”
“They should let the market set the rate,” he said.
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