On Friday the city sent out a press release touting the news that Chicago’s parking meter problems will soon come to an end.
That’s because Chicago Parking Meters, the private company that will be running the system for the next 75 years, has undertaken some aggressive customer service initiatives. While parking rates will continue to climb, the company is replacing meters, which only take quarters, with pay boxes that accept credit cards. And scores of company employees will be dispatched to city streets to help people feed them if they can’t figure out how to do it on their own.
“We are pleased that CPM has decided to make it easier for Chicagoans to use parking meters by installing a pay box cashless system far sooner than our agreement requires,” Gene Saffold, the city’s chief financial officer, says in the statement.
“We challenged CPM to do a better job of addressing consumer concerns and improving the system operability, and we’re pleased to report that CPM has substantially improved their performance,” revenue commissioner Bea Reyna-Hickey adds.
“The modern pay boxes are connected to a constantly-monitored network, which alerts LAZ Parking to any malfunctioning equipment immediately, improving response and repair time,” the statement goes on to say. “And because one pay box takes the place of many single-space meters, they help to unclutter sidewalks and add to neighborhood improvement efforts.”
They also allow more cars to park on certain blocks, which along with the technology upgrades will improve CPM’s profits.
Good for CPM. Not quite as good for taxpayers.
The more efficient and profitable the system becomes, the more taxpayers will lose out on what could have been.
In April, Ben Joravsky and I wrote about how the process the city undertook in privatizing the meters was clouded in secrecy before being rubber-stamped by the City Council.
But there’s even more to it. As we describe in a new story on the privatization deal, the agreement was structured to benefit someone, but not the taxpayers. The beneficiaries? The investors behind CPM and the current occupants of City Hall.
Taxpayers may have been hosed out of billions of dollars.
Meanwhile, the hearings on the deal originally scheduled for Monday have been put on hold. Alderman Joe Moore says he wants more time to look at terms of the agreement before aldermen question city and CPM officials on it.