So, good for Mayor Rahm Emanuel in getting Chicago Parking Meters LLC to create a parking Sabbath in most neighborhoods. Having to pay for parking on a Sunday was a reminder of one of America’s most unflattering characteristics: it’s a place where everything is for sale, and where someone’s trying to make a buck off you, seven days a week. No one should get a parking ticket for going to church.
It’s a good time, though, to revisit how Mayor Daley's parking giveaway has not only fleeced the motorists of Chicago, but has perverted the original purpose of parking meters. Parking meters were not invented to make money for municipalities. They were invented to make money for businesses, by keeping cars circulating throughout the day. Without meters, a motorist could park in the street in front of a store all day, preventing new customers from finding a spot. Fees were minimal, because the idea was simply to discourage loitering. But, with the sale of the meter concession, street parking went from serving merchants to becoming a business itself. And not just a business, but a business whose very existence is at the expense of the merchants it was originally designed to serve. Chicago Parking LLC’s meters are discouraging the commerce they are supposed to facilitate, as drivers head to the suburbs, where the parking is cheaper -- or free -- and the meter maids less aggressive.
At least now your neighborhood hardware store/vacuum cleaner repair shop/bike shop/pharmacy have a partial reprieve. They can open on Sunday.