It costs a lot to park in Chicago. Of that there is no denial.
The private company that oversees on street parking in Chicago has seen revenue increase by 368 percent since 2008. That was the year the Daley administration pushed through a controversial plan to relinquish the city’s hold over 36,000 parking meters in exchange for a $1.2 billion payout.
In 2008, the last year the city collected parking meter revenue, it totaled $23.3 million. In 2011, the last year figures were available, Chicago Parking Meters, LLC took in $109.3 million, according to figures released through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The private company is supposed to release 2012 figures by the end of April.
There was plenty of anger in 2008 when the parking meter deal was approved with just 5 aldermen dissenting.
Today the anger is still real and 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."
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) was among the few who voted against the original deal, which he says has worked out great for the private company.
"This deal will be paid back to that company, they will get their money back in 10 years or less and then Chicagoans are going to pay this company for 60 more years," he said. "That is icing on the cake for them."
"The way things are working is terrible," said attorney David Genelly, who is not only worried about parking but also privatizing other city assets, including Midway Airport. The Emanuel administration has begun preliminary conversations to privatize the airport for up to 40 years.
"By long term leasing a facility like Midway Airport, who knows what it’s going to be five years, 10 years from now," Genelly said.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a written statement that any plan will be "approached in a transparent manner" with an independent review. And no decision has been made.
As for the $1.2 billion dollars the city got in the parking meter deal?
All that remains is $1.5 million.
With citizens still seething at the outcome, including one woman paying this week to park in the loop.
"For these prices you might as well valet park,” she said.