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Sundays will now be free, but not everywhere. And drivers will have to be longer the rest of the week. Mary Ann Ahern explains.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Monday that Chicago will get a parking break on Sundays, but there's a catch.
As part of a settlement in the city's legal battle with the private company that oversees Chicago's street parking, Chicago Parking Meters LLC has agreed to stop charging on Sundays in the city's neighborhoods beginning in late summer, Emanuel said.
In return parking costs will be extended to 10 p.m. during the week in blocks where metered parking ends at 9 p.m. Times will be extended from 9 p.m. to midnight in the area bordered by the Chicago River to the South, the lake to the East, Division Street to the North and the Chicago River to the West.
Residential streets where meters run until 6 p.m. will not be extended.
Emanuel also announced $1 billion in reduced charges over the life of the city's 75-year contract as well as a plan to pay for parking via cell phones.
The City Council approved the contract in 2008 to relinquish the city’s hold over 36,000 parking meters in exchange for a $1.2 billion payout. Since then Chicago Parking Meters LLC has seen its revenue increase by 368 percent.
"This deal was badly negotiated," Emanuel said, adding he's "trying to make lemonade out of this lemon."
"In the best interests of the people of Chicago, CPM collaborated with the administration," Chicago Parking Meters LLC said in a statement, "and believes that our willingness to work with the City demonstrates our desire to provide the most efficient and technologically advanced parking meter system possible for the City of Chicago."
There was plenty of anger when the parking meter deal was approved with just five aldermen dissenting, and today the anger is still real on the streets of Chicago.
"That’s ridiculous. Absolutely obscene," said Jean Jacques when shown the 2011 amount paid to Chicago Parking Meters.
"It’s skyrocketed," echoed Kevin Taylor who says the cost to park, $6.50 an hour downtown, makes him think twice about visiting the city.
"Yes it does," he said. "Every time."
As for the $1.2 billion dollars the city got in the parking meter deal?
All that remains is $1.5 million.