There's good news and bad news on the parking meter front.
The bad news: In just a little over a week -- on Jan. 1 -- the top parking meter rate in the city will jump another $.75, to $4.25.
The good news: several "enhancements" have in effect now and should make parking a little less frustrating.
"It's not a perfect system. And it can certainly be improved as we go along. And this is a reflection of the fact that we heard people, we listened to what they said," said Avis Lavelle with Chicago Parking Meters LLC.
Among the changes:
Portable Time: If you still have hours or minutes left on your receipt, you can move your vehicle to a new location in the same zone, or a less expensive one, and not have to buy more time.
Extended Time: More time will be available on machines near theaters, universities and hospitals to accomodate events that run long.
Automatic Ticket Dismissal: Information on malfunctioning meters will be shared with the city to aid in the dismissal of illegitimate tickets. Ninety-two tickets have been dismissed since the summer because of inoperable meters, the company said in a release.
Discounted Monthly Passes: A pilot program will be launched at 11 commuter lots to give motorists the option of buying monthly passes at a discount
Pre-Payment: Pay boxes are programmed to offer pre-payment whenever possible. Motorists parking at 24-hour meters can generally pre-pay until 10:00am unless rush hour restrictions are in place. At most other meters, motorists can pre- pay as early as 5:00am until 10:00am or later.
Donated bicycle meters: Chicago Parking Meters donated thousands of single space meter poles and housings to the City of Chicago, retrofitting them so that bicycle parking is protected.
"I'm not sure that anyone welcomes changes in rates, but the reality is that you can make the system more user friendly. You can make it more responsive to the motoring public, Lavelle said.
All 36,000 parking meters in the city earlier this year were privatized in a $1.15 billion, 75-year deal.
Parking rates will continue to go up every year through 2013. By then, it will cost $6.50 per hour to park in the Loop.