Story Summary

Changes to Chicago’s parking meters

The Chicago City Council approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s controversial plan to change the terms of the city’s parking meter lease despite questions about the deal’s financial impact and fear of giving Chicago Parking Meters LLC another windfall.

After lengthy debate, the council voted 39-11 in favor after the mayor’s aides spent the morning talking to aldermen trying to tamp down the number of votes against the mayor’s plan.

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A dozen wards on the West and South Side will begin offering free Sunday parking this weekend two weeks early.

Mayor Emanuel negotiated a trade of free Sundays in neighborhoods in exchange for meters running until midnight in the Gold Coast, Loop, River North and South Loop.

But as many as 15 aldermen have discussed repealing that measure.

They want meters to run on Sundays in retail areas to free up spaces for shoppers.

Chicago city council was busy Wednesday and approved several measure of high interest including changes to the parking meters deal and adding more Cubs games at Wrigley at night.

First, after a lengthy debate, the council voted 39-11 and approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s controversial plan to change the terms of the city’s parking meter lease despite questions about the deal’s financial impact and fear of giving Chicago Parking Meters LLC another windfall.

That deal gave Chicago Parking Meters LLC the right to collect all revenue from the meters for 75 years in exchange for an upfront cash payment to the city of $1.15 million — all but $125 million of which was spent by the time Emanuel took office in mid-2011.

It also led to soaring meter rates and city payments of tens of millions of dollars for more unpaid parking by people with disabled placards and loss of revenue due to the city taking meters out of service than allowed under the contract.

Under Emanuel’s changes, the city reduced its payment for meters out of service during the past two years to $8.9 million from about $50 million. The meter company also agreed to change the way it calculates meters out of service, which the mayor’s top lieutenants say will reduce penalty payments by $1 billion during the remaining 71 years of the lease.

The more controversial part of the mayor’s changes involved the trade-off of free Sunday parking outside the central business district for longer hours at all metered spaces that require payment until 9 p.m. In most areas, those hours will be extended to 10 p.m. In River North, Streeterville and parts of the Gold Coast, hours will be extended until 12 p.m.
Also Wednesday, the council voted to increase the number of night games at Wrigley Field.

The number of games will go from 30 to 46 and the Friendly Confines can host four concerts a year.

-Chicago Tribune contributed to this report

 

 

By Hal Dardick and John Byrne Clout Street

The Chicago City Council today approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s controversial plan to change the terms of the city’s parking meter lease despite questions about the deal’s financial impact and fear of giving Chicago Parking Meters LLC another windfall.

After lengthy debate, the council voted 39-11 in favor after the mayor’s aides spent the morning talking to aldermen trying to tamp down the number of votes against the mayor’s plan. Although there were more opposition votes than typical during Emanuel’s two years in office, the number fell short of the 14 “no” votes logged in April 2012, when the council approved the mayor’s plan to set up speed cameras near schools and parks.

Ald. Robert Fioretti, 2nd, contended aldermen don’t have enough information about the finances of the new meter plan. He asked his colleagues to remember the bad parking meter deal they passed under then-Mayor Richard M. Daley with too little information a few years ago.

“Do any of us remember 2008? Did we not learn anything?” Fioretti asked.

Fioretti criticized officials from Chicago Parking Meters for not coming to any City Council hearings on the new plan. “You can hear the crickets. It’s like deja vu all over again,” he said.

Fioretti wondered whether by agreeing to these changes, the city would preclude itself from possibly tearing up the meter contract entirely in the future, though that would be difficult given that nearly all of the upfront money the city got already has been spent.

“Some lemons shouldn’t be made into lemonade,” Fioretti said, a reference to Emanuel’s oft-repeated defense of his proposed change. “Some lemons should be returned to the store for a refund.”

But Ald. Jason Ervin, 28th, said it’s shortsighted for aldermen wary of the free Sundays clause to turn down a chance to reduce the true-up money owed to CPM.

“That’s tantamount to tripping over $100 bills to pick up nickels,” Ervin said.

The vote came after Maria Guerra, the mayor’s chief council lobbyist, worked through the morning to convince aldermen to back the measure, even though it was clear days ago that Emanuel had a clear majority of aldermen backing his changes.

There were more “no votes” than when the original deal was approved 40-5 in late 2008 under Daley.

That deal gave Chicago Parking Meters LLC the right to collect all revenue from the meters for 75 years in exchange for an upfront cash payment to the city of $1.15 million — all but $125 million of which was spent by the time Emanuel took office in mid-2011.

It also led to soaring meter rates and city payments of tens of millions of dollars for more unpaid parking by people with disabled placards and loss of revenue due to the city taking meters out of service than allowed under the contract.

Under Emanuel’s changes, the city reduced its payment for meters out of service during the past two years to $8.9 million from about $50 million. The meter company also agreed to change the way it calculates meters out of service, which the mayor’s top lieutenants say will reduce penalty payments by $1 billion during the remaining 71 years of the lease.

The more controversial part of the mayor’s changes involved the trade-off of free Sunday parking outside the central business district for longer hours at all metered spaces that require payment until 9 p.m. In most areas, those hours will be extended to 10 p.m. In River North, Streeterville and parts of the Gold Coast, hours will be extended until 12 p.m.

Opposition aldermen led by Ald. Brendan Reilly, whose 42nd Ward will be hardest hit by the extended hours, questioned whether the longer hours would result in a financial windfall for the meter company. The mayor’s top lieutenants said it’s a break-even proposition for the company.

At least nine aldermen and as many as 15 are expected to quickly seek further changes that would allow them to restore paid Sunday parking in commercial districts within their wards. Business owners have told them that they need paid parking on Sundays to ensure turnover of spaces so their customers can more easily find street parking.

The changes also include the option to use a phone cell app to feed the meters. That comes with a fee of 35 cents for any purchase of less than two hours and the requirement to keep a minimum of $10 in an account off which the company can draw interest.

A Tribune analysis found that even if the mayor’s changes save money as projected by his top lieutenants, taxpayers and meter users still could end up paying the company $517 million in today’s dollars during the remainder of the lease for meters out of service because of city actions, excessive use of disabled placards that allow free parking, and the pay-by-cell program.

That number, however, likely would be reduced by the restoration of paid Sunday parking in the commercial areas. That could save tens of millions of dollars over the long run.

Aldermen who voted against the deal were: Robert Fioretti, 2nd; Leslie Hairston, 5th; Scott Waguespack, 32nd; Rey Colon, 35th; Brendan Reilly, 42nd; Michele Smith,  43rd; Tom Tunney, 44th; John Arena, 45th; Ameya Pawar, 47th; Harry Osterman, 48th; and Debra Silverstein, 50th.

Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

Wednesday’s Chicago City Council hearing could lead to changes for parking meters and Cubs night games.

The council is expected to pass Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new parking meter deal.

The mayor says his plan would save the city about one billion dollars.

Some of that would be saved by reducing the penalties the city is being charged for out of service meters.

“This is a take it or leave it deal.  If you walk away from it, we go to court and take our chances of losing,” said 38th Ward Alderman Timothy Cullerton.

Emanuel is also offering free parking on Sundays in exchange for longer meter hours in some neighborhoods.

Several aldermen say they only support the changes because they’re better than what the city has now.

The City Council will also look at adding night games at Wrigley Field.

Tuesday, the City Council License Committee approved of raising the number of night games to 46.

The limit has been 30, since 2004.

The Cubs wanted more night games as part of their Wrigley Field renovation plans, but they’re still not happy.

They don’t like that the ordinance limits the number of games that can be held on Friday and Saturday nights.

Another clause would give the city authority in choosing when the Cubs can reschedule games that get rained out.

The Cubs say they’ll keep working on changing the plan, before today’s vote.

Wednesday’s Chicago City Council hearing could lead to changes for parking meters and Cubs night games.

The council is expected to pass Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new parking meter deal.

The mayor says his plan would save the city about one billion dollars.

Some of that would be saved by reducing the penalties the city is being charged for out of service meters.

“This is a take it or leave it deal.  If you walk away from it, we go to court and take our chances of losing,” said 38th Ward Alderman Timothy Cullerton.

Emanuel is also offering free parking on Sundays in exchange for longer meter hours in some neighborhoods.

Several aldermen say they only support the changes because they’re better than what the city has now.

The City Council will also look at adding night games at Wrigley Field.

Tuesday, the City Council License Committee approved of raising the number of night games to 46.

The limit has been 30, since 2004.

The Cubs wanted more night games as part of their Wrigley Field renovation plans, but they’re still not happy.

They don’t like that the ordinance limits the number of games that can be held on Friday and Saturday nights.

Another clause would give the city authority in choosing when the Cubs can reschedule games that get rained out.

The Cubs say they’ll keep working on changing the plan, before today’s vote.

Local News
05/24/13

Parking meter deal revision gets hearing

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to redo the city’s despised parking meters deal gets its first public hearing on Friday.

The city council’s finance committee is expected to hold a total of two days of hearings.

Emanuel says his revised plan would save taxpayers one billion dollars over the remaining 71 years of the deal. The Daley administration made the agreement with Chicago Parking Meters LLC in 2008.

“As much as we all wish it would just go away, there is no silver bullet to release the city from this horrible deal,” said Lois Scott, the City of Chicago’s C.F.O.

The proposal also calls for free parking on Sundays, but extending the hours at night.

24 aldermen are backing the plan.

But, a Tribune analysis found taxpayers could still end up putting hundreds of millions of dollars into the company. The Tribune says most of the extra money would come from penalty payments for meters taken out of service and excessive use of disabled parking permits. The Tribune says the company also could get an additional $76 million from a new pay-by-cellphone system Emanuel wants added to the contract. The Tribune analysis discovered the company could amass an estimated $517 million in additional revenue on top of the parking meter fees it already stands to collect, clawing back nearly 45 percent of the $1.15billion the company paid the city to lease its paid street parking system.

The Chicago Tribune and WGN News Writer C. Hayes contributed to this report.

Local News
05/24/13

Parking meter plan hearing today

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s controversial parking meter plan will get its first public hearing Friday.

24 aldermen have already come out in support of the plan, which strikes a long-term lease with the company, Chicago Parking Meters.

According to a Tribune analysis, Chicago Parking Meters could end up with $517 million in additional revenue above parking meter fees.

•About $173 million would come from future out-of-service penalties, based on the $4.5 million a year the city estimates it will continue to pay.

•The new pay-by-cell system, which would allow drivers to use an app to feed pay boxes, could generate up to $76 million in profits, in part from convenience fees.

•The city also could end up paying more than $216 million in penalties for excessive disabled parking use.

Critics say the deal leaves taxpayers footing the bill. Mayor Emanuel said the plan will save the city $ 1 billion in the long run.

More details of Mayor Emanuel’s parking meter bargain are starting to emerge.

According to Crain’s, the City of Chicago will regain control of 16 parking lots, and will have the option of closing the lots for street festivals and farmer’s markets.

In return, the private operator Chicago Parking Meters LLC, will take control of another 900 metered parking spaces on the near North Side.

Users of those spaces will have to pay through midnight instead of 9 p.m.

Sunday parking won’t be free in that area.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced new changes Monday to Chicago’s controversial parking meter contract.

Before he left office, Mayor Richard Daley leased the city’s parking meters to a private company. Emanuel has long blamed the rising cost of street parking on lack of oversight, and went back to the bargaining table with Chicago Parking Meters, LLC.

“Let’s be clear here. This does not solve our parking meter problem. That’s just not possible. I’m trying to make a little lemonade out of a big lemon,” Emanuel said.

CPM still has 71 years left of the contract but Mayor Emanuel has been holding up payments on some invoices claiming the bills were unjustified. So, CPM has struck a new deal softening some aspects of the contract, which some alderman say is better than nothing.

“I think today makes a bad deal better. I believe that we were getting to the point that the only options were default or try to rescind the contract — pay the $1 billion back to the parking meter company,” said Ald. Howard Brooking, Jr., 21st Ward.

Paying $1 billion back would be tough because the city has already spent the money. Even so, Emanuel was able to get some relaxation of the terms of the contract which he says amount to $20 million in savings per year over the remaining 71-years which would be over a billion dollars in savings. Plus there are other modifications to the contract:

“Free Sundays in our neighborhoods, a new pay by cell option throughout the city, a settlement of unpaid bills on my desk for future payments worth a little more than a billion dollars to Chicago taxpayers and numerous other changes to the contract,” Emanuel said.

In exchange for free parking on Sundays, Chicagoans parking at most metered spots in the city will need to pay until 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday as opposed to 9 p.m. now. People parking in the River North neighborhood will need to pay for an extra three hours Monday through Saturday, extending the required meter time until midnight.

Spots where parkers currently have to pay until 6 p.m. will not see the meter hours extended under the deal, Emanuel said.

Also under the deal Emanuel announced, drivers will be able to pay via cell phone to park at a meter, but will need to pay a convenience charge of 35 cents for each purchase of up to two hours. That technology should be in place by summer 2014, according to the mayor’s office.

The proposal will be presented to the full City Council next week for approval.

The Chicago Tribune contributed to this report.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Monday new changes to Chicago’s controversial parking meter contract.

Mayor Richard Daley enraged drivers by leasing the parking meters to a private company before he left office; since then the cost of street parking has skyrocketed, and meter enforcement has expanded to 24 hours a day.

Today, Emanuel announced meter parking will soon be free on Sunday’s in Chicago neighborhoods, parkers will be able to use their cellphones to pay the meter and the city has settled a long running billing dispute with Chicago Parking Meters LLC.

The company claimed the city owed $61 million due to special events, routine street maintenance and disabled parking.

Emanuel said the settlement saves the taxpayers $1 billion.

The entire proposal will now go to the City Council.

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