It turns out, the privatization of Chicago's parking meters is becoming a total cluster:
During spot checks around the city, the Tribune found:
- Outdated fee and violation-enforcement information still posted on many meters since the city switched from six parking zones to three.
- Meters that, regardless of what the stickers indicate, charge the wrong hourly rates for the zone in which they are located, increasing the chance of vehicles being ticketed. For example, in the 1800 block of North Clybourn Avenue, an area where 25 cents is supposed to buy 15 minutes of parking time, meter No. 279089 provides only seven minutes for a quarter. A black marker was used to cover up the "15" on the meter's rate sticker with "7."
- A surge in broken meters, many overstuffed with coins.
- Stepped-up writing of tickets for parking-meter violations.
The parking-meter companies last weekend exercised an option in the contract that allows them to ticket vehicles parked at expired meters, Walsh said. Chicago police officers and parking enforcement aides also continue to write tickets, and the city will keep all fines collected.
Asked why the concessionaire would spend resources on ticketing even though it cannot keep any fines, Pete Scales of the Chicago Department of Budget and Management said, "That extra enforcement is an added incentive to fill the meters."
So, pop quiz for anyone who's taken Intro to Microeconomics: what are the incentives for either the parking meter company or the city to provide fair and accurate parking meters, or to keep them in good repair?
Pop quiz for second-year law students: Is a class action suit warranted, and if so, for what relief, and in which court?