Meter Madness: Bad For Business

Local businesses say meter madness is cutting into their customer base

Want to find a place to park in Albany Park? 

If you’ve got the quarters, this northside neighborhood’s got plenty of places to park your car. And plenty of small business owners who are upset about that very fact.
“They have been pounded twice in the last several months,” said Andrew Levin. “First, by the recession, and second, by this increase in parking.”
As president of the community’s Chamber of Commerce, Levin’s heard small business owners give the same story as Jesse Arteaga.
”You start looking out the window and there are less and less cars parked," said Arteaga, owner of Chuy’s Chicken on West Lawrence. "And there's less customers coming in.”
A year ago it cost 25-cents to park here for an hour. Now it costs $1.  And as a partial result, Arteaga says, business is down. He also blames the economy.
A casual look around this neighborhood provides a stark image. Parking meter after parking meter after parking meter -- with no one parking.
It was four months ago, at Mayor Daley's urging, that the City Council voted to privatize Chicago's 36,000 parking meters for the next 75 years. The city got $1.2 billion, money to help balance the budget.
But on Monday, along North Kedzie, meter after meter was empty and more than once we saw a worker for LAZ Parking, which now operates the parking meters, open and close empty coin boxes.
This as a nearby side street --- with no meters --- was jammed packed.
Jesse Arteaga said he started noticing the trend several weeks ago.
“He's saying the same thing we are hearing up and down the commercial district,” said Liz Griffiths, the Executive Director of the Lawrence Avenue Development Corporation.
“No people come and park and eat, you know,” said Jose Sanchez who owns the Magic Grill, a fast food place on Lawrence Avenue. “We want the price to go down, you know?"
“These small business owners want the traffic to stop,” said Levin, who noted six empty spaces in front of the Magic Grill.  “One year ago, I guarantee you this would have been filled up with cars. No doubt about it,” he said.
City officials say Mayor Daley regrets the shock of the skyrocketing rates, but at the same time strongly defends the 75-year lease to LAZ Parking.
“Overall, it's horrible,” said businessman Andre Rabbani with a certain fury in his voice. “I am mad, angry. Yes.”
“Everyone understands the city has to keep running,” said Liz Griffiths.
But Rabbani adds,” I have not met one person who is for this.”
Asked if before this he was a booster of Mayor Daley, Rabbani said yes.  Asked if his view has changed, his answer was defiant.

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