Tickets Up, Yet Revenue Down

Over 3 months, city saw $4 million drop in year-over-year revenue

Year over year, there were more than 120,000 more parking tickets written in Chicago though Aug. 31 of this year than over the same time period period last year.

123,812 to be exact, according to numbers supplied by Ald. Helen Schiller in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Yet, as the number of parking tickets written has gone up, revenue from those tickets has declined. From May to August of this year, there was a drop of nearly $4 million over the same period in 2008.

And those numbers are playing out as the city struggles to fill a $520 million budget hole.

City Hall is tight lipped about the shortfall. A spokesman for the Department of Revenue declined a request for an interview with Director Bea Reyna-Hickey.

One reason for the increase in the number of tickets is that enforcement hours are up 27 percent according to the city.

And that's just one reason some aldermen say their constituents are fighting mad.

"I agree we are in a bad revenue situation," said Ald. Tom Allen (38th). "But I'm tired of us beating the daylights out of John Q. Citizen to get $50 bucks out of him because he overstayed his parking."

"At every community meeting people are questioning us about the fact that we are attempting to collect more revenue from the tickets." said Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th).

She says the economy is to blame if people are, in fact, not paying parking tickets promptly.

"If you've lost your job," she said, "And you have to make choices between keeping the gas on, keeping the lights on or paying the tickets, you are going to take a chance you are going to get the boot and pay the lights and the gas."

Department of Revenue spokesman Ed Walsh said in 2008 that the city included collection costs when reporting how much money was received in fines. That changed this year, causing part of the decrease in reported revenue, he said.

Still there was a whopping $1.7 million decline in the amount collected in June 2009 versus June 2008. August receipts were down by $1.3 million.

The city is looking for increased ways to find revenue.  Last week, the city began booting cars with more than two unpaid tickets 24 hours a day, the Web site reported.

Frustration is building.

"I'm sure of one thing, we are writing tickets," Allen said. "And I'm sure of another thing. People are sick of it. And I’m sure of another thing, we don't have any money."

Last December, the Chicago City Council approved the Mayor Richard Daley's plan to privatize the city's 36,000 parking meters. The 75-year deal meant more than $1.1 billion dollars to a city strapped for cash.

Old meters were replaced with new kiosks and the cost to park on Chicago's streets increased, prompting outrage by many who found they had to deposit quarter after quarter after quarter.

Fares go up again in January.

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