How to Escape The Parking Meter Deal

Chicago Parking LLC’s latest outrages -- demanding the city pay up for money lost to handicapped drivers and street closings -- makes it clear that the parking meter deal isn’t just soaking motorists. It’s soaking the entire city, as we’re forced to hand over millions of dollars that could otherwise be spent on libraries, parks, schools, garbage collection and lawsuits over ethnically-imbalanced ward maps.

For a billion dollars, Morgan Stanley purchased a 75-year license to loot the city of Chicago. The good news is, we’ve only got 72 years to go, which means the deal will expire before our great-grandchildren get their driver’s licenses.

According to the Chicago Reader’s Mick Dumke, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is resigned to the deal, and is trying to make the best of it, by using it for political leverage. He was able to raise water and sewer fees by threatening to sell the water system. Its continued existence also allows Emanuel to compare himself favorably to his predecessor:

Most of us have no trouble agreeing that Mayor Daley deserves the blame for pawning the meters. But that's why Mayor Emanuel hasn’t felt any real urgency to act on the issue. When you’ve got a former mayor to kick around, what’s the cost of not doing anything? A lot less than investing time and resources in a potentially fruitless attempt to figure out if it can be reworked or scotched altogether.

There is a way out of the deal, though, my fellow Chicagoans. It’s very simple. STOP PARKING. Ride the bus. Ride the L. Ride a bike. Walk. Hitchhike. Arrive by jet-pak. Shop in your own neighborhood. I have never seen a metered parking strip that wasn’t also served by a bus line and/or an L line. Chicago Parking LLC has a license to operate a parking concession. It does not, in spite of the financial claims it has lately been making on the city, have a guaranteed income stream. If meter use declines, so does Chicago Parking LLC’s profit margin. And if the parking concession becomes unprofitable, the company may be willing to renegotiate the deal, or void it entirely.

Maybe that’s the secret motivation between the mayor’s campaign to make Chicago the most bike-friendly city in America. The more we chain our bikes to the old parking meters, the less likely we’ll be chained to the new ones.

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