UPDATED 05/09/11 8:15 a.m.

CHICAGO (WBBM/CBS) — With 73 years left to go in a parking meter contract signed by the city of Chicago back in 2008, residents in Wicker Park are hoping a new City Hall administration can make a difference.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Michele Fiore reports

Community activist Raul Montes Jr. organized a rally in Wicker Park on Sunday, calling on Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel to either revoke the parking meter lease, or press for lower parking rates.

“On this very strip, it costs $1.50 an hour, which is an outrage,” Montez said.

Rachel Thomas-Chappell works at a clothing store on Milwaukee Avenue, and she said it has become too difficult to drive to work, considering she’d have to pay $15 for parking.

The rates in Wicker Park are now $1.50 per hour along Milwaukee Avenue.

Thomas-Chappell said the $1.50 per hour rate is discouraging shoppers. She said that shoppers often leave her store because their meter is expiring and then they don’t return.

She also said the whole idea of paying the higher fees doesn’t make sense because it isn’t benefitting the city, which she said needs the money to do the things like repair the concrete curb outside her store.

Higher parking meter rates have caused driver Alex Martinez to make a drastic change in his lifestyle. Instead of driving, Martinez said he now takes his bicycle.

As part of the deal, meter rate increases are built in every year through 2013.

At the start of this year, rates in neighborhoods outside downtown – an area that includes Wicker Park – went from $1.25 to $1.50 per hour.

Rates in the Loop went from $4.25 to $5 per hour, while rates outside the Loop — but still in the downtown area — go from $2.50 to $3. The affected area for these rates is bounded roughly by Division Street, Cermak Road, Halsted Street and Lake Michigan.

That won’t be the last increase. The lease deal calls for rate hikes again in 2012 and 2013.

By 2013, it will cost $6.50 per hour, or 26 quarters, to park in the Loop, $4 to park in downtown outside the Loop, and $2 to park in the neighborhoods. After that, rates will be adjusted annually by inflation.

In 2008, the city entered a 75-year, $1.15 billion lease with Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, a firm organized by Morgan Stanley, to privatize the collection of funds at meters.

In addition to jacking up rates and replacing the old parking meters with electronic pay boxes, the privatization deal also did away with free holiday parking and most free Sunday parking.

The parking meter deal has since been roundly criticized as a bad deal for the city and a bad deal for those who have to park here.

Also, about six months after the parking meter deal was approved, the city Inspector General’s office indicated the city could have reaped $1 billion more for the meters than it got in the deal.

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