Lawsuit: 75-year Chicago parking meter deal is a monopoly

Chicago News

CHICAGO (AP) — The private company that operates Chicago’s parking meters is being sued in federal court by three local residents who allege Chicago Parking Meters exclusive contract with the city is an illegal monopoly.

The lawsuit against Chicago Parking Meters seeks class-action status on behalf of drivers who have fed the machines lining the city’s streets. The lawsuit alleges the 75-year-old agreement has led to higher parking rates and too many meters and restrictions on alternative transportation such as bicycles and ride-sharing.

“The city of Chicago granted CPM, a private party, monopoly control over the city’s parking meter system for an astonishing 75-year-long period, without regard for the changes in technology and innovations in transportation taking place now and for the rest of the century,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit notes before the deal with Chicago Parking Meters brokered in 2009 by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley for a cash payment of $1.16 billion, the city was collecting about $24 million a year from parking meters. Since then, the company has received more than $138.7 million in annual parking meter revenue. By the end of 2019, Chicago Parking Meters had already earned $500 million more than it paid the city

A Chicago Parking Meters spokesman declined to comment Thursday on the lawsuit as did city officials. The city is not named in the lawsuit.

Chicago Parking Meters operates 36,000 metered parking spaces, according to the company. Among the private company investors are Morgan Stanley, Allianz Capital Partners and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

The lawsuit filed by Micah Uetricht, Marianela D’Aprile and John Kaderbek alleges the agreement bars both active regulation by the city over the rates charged by Chicago Parking Meters, as well as competitive bidding for other vendors to provide the service more efficiently. The lawsuit contends that is a violation of federal antitrust laws.

In addition, the lawsuit alleges the agreement imposed “special restrictions” on competing forms of transportation such as bicycles, ride-sharing, public transit.

“Because the city could not intelligently foresee the consequences of a 75-year agreement that it could not actively regulate, CPM has already made a windfall profit, and an even greater profit than any other utility in Illinois, or any utility which the government is free to regulate,” the plaintiffs contend.

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