Chicago can hold off calling itself the city with the highest parking meter rates, at least for now.
A delay in rolling out the new rate hikes means Chicagoans are paying a lot less than they could be right now. The price of parking in the city was supposed to jump starting Jan. 1, but none of the more than 4,000 meters have been changed to reflect that -- not that anyone is complaining about it.
Once the rates take effect, meters in the Loop will jump to $6.50 an hour while other meters downtown will be $4 per hour. Other metered areas throughout the city will be $2 per hour.
While former Mayor Richard Daley was in office, Chicago was paid about $1.2 billion for a 99-year lease of the meters. Daley last year landed a job with the firm that helped negotiate the parking meter deal.
The company that now manages the meters, Chicago Parking Meters LLC, reportedly made more than $80 million from the meters in 2011. The company has also billed the city millions for meters taken out of service, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel has so far refused to cut a check, arguing CPM's numbers are off. He's ordered an independent audit.
Meters still marked with the 2012 rates are costing Chicago Parking Meters LLC hundreds of thousands of dollars.
There are reports that contract issues with the city have stalled the switch, but don't get too excited. The rates will still go up, probably in February.