Drivers looking for the perfect parking spot in Chicago know the process can be challenging—but for some drivers who park illegally or stay too long in a metered space, the resulting tickets can lead to major financial hardships.
The city has collected $2.8 billion in parking ticket revenue since 1996, according to millions of city records analyzed by ProPublica Illinois. However, there remains $1.8 billion in total outstanding parking tickets.
Drivers who do not pay their tickets can incur late penalties, license suspensions and vehicle impoundments.
A ticket for a missing city vehicle sticker for example, may start at $200, but it can grow to nearly $500 if left unpaid.
As a result, thousands of Chicago drivers who can’t afford to pay, turn to Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
“We have to really think about the size, the cost of the tickets and then what people’s incomes look like,” said ProPublica Illinois reporter Melissa Sanchez. “We have a lot of really poor people in the city who need their vehicles to get to work and then all the ticket debt just makes that impossible.”
Sanchez said the city’s West and South Side are hit the hardest by parking ticket-related license suspensions and bankruptcies.
The city of Chicago issued a statement saying it uses parking enforcement in order to prevent traffic congestion, enforce residential and commercial parking laws, and address safety concerns.
“We know effective and trusted enforcement actions can help to change behavior, encourage compliance and improve safety outcomes,” said a spokesperson from the city’s Department of Finance.
ProPublica Illinois has designed an interactive database to show ticketing patterns in every Chicago ward and how communities compare with other parts of the city.
Users can see how much money has been paid from parking tickets in their ward, how many licenses were suspended and how many tickets were tied to a bankruptcy.