What’s Going on in Chicago


What’s Going on in Chicago

Some “local activists” are stirring the pot and asking that newly installed Mayor Rahm Emmanuel unwind the lease agreement with their on street parking. If you believe the story (Check it out here), they are at the barricades and any moment now Hizzonner will step up and blow the deal away.

I have checked with my sources in the windy city and they tell me that the truth is a resounding “not quite.”

First of all, the Wicker Park demonstration mentioned in the article was not very large. My understanding is that there were more media there than demonstrators (it’s possible the entire demonstration was pictured in the article.)

Second – The Mayor has not said, either during his campaign or since his election that he would unwind the parking contract, only that he will have someone look into it.

I’m told that 24 out of the 25 Chambers of Commerce in the areas affected by the parking program are in favor of the new equipment and new rates. Their attitudes seem to be: The parking rates and enforcement get employees off the streets and open up spaces for customers. Well Duh.

The rates in Chicago needed to be raised. The political will did not exist for the city to do it. By leasing out the parking system, a private firm was able to raise the rates, take the political hits, and be able to generate the revenue that the asset should be generating.

Chicago has been the test bed for PPP activity. There is a learning curve. All things considered and when you think of what could have gone wrong, it’s been a spectacular success.

Did Chicago cut a bad deal? That remains to be seen. In general should cities sell off their revenue generating assets? That conversation is for another time.

However the issues involved in putting the collection and enforcement activities in private hands in a major city, installing 4000 pay and display machines, and dealing with all the resulting hiccups and problems seem to have gone smoothly.

I’ll keep my eye on it – watch this space.


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John Van Horn

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