Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In

Chicago Outsources Parking Reform to Morgan Stanley

chimetr2.jpgThe Chicago City Council has approved by a vote of 40-5 a deal to privatize the city's 36,000 metered parking spots for the next 75 years, trading meter revenues for an upfront payment of $1.15 billion.

Under the agreement with Morgan Stanley Infrastructure, meter rates will rise substantially and some meters
will operate overnight and on Sundays. Chicago currently nets $20 million a year from its meters, and revenue should triple or quadruple given planned meter rates. The deal is by far the largest of its kind in the US and
continues Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's privatization of city transportation infrastructure,
including Midway Airport and the elevated Chicago Skyway.

The agreement is interesting from a transportation reform perspective because the higher meter rates, applied through modern meters, will help sharply reduce double-parking and cruising traffic. This means less air pollution, less time wasted in traffic, and more potential street space for sidewalk extensions, bikes and buses. 

Despite these benefits, Chicago's privatized road to parking reform has serious flaws. The concession will cost future taxpayers several hundred million to even a billion dollars in foregone parking revenue -- a lot to pay to outsource the political will to raise rates. Additionally, none of the upfront payment will be dedicated to transportation improvements. The bulk of the money will go to balancing the budget and fiscal "stabilization" with $100 million earmarked for social programs.

Chicago will soon have the highest meter rates in the United States. The 8,100 meters in the Loop Central
Business District will rise 50 cents to $3.50/hour next month and $6.50 by 2013. Neighborhood rates will quadruple
to $1 an hour next year and reach $2 by 2013. (San Francisco's SFpark is also raising rates, though it's not clear how fast and by how much.)

Daley’s press press release further details how meter rates will be set:

    • The City will implement graduatedmeter rate increases over a period of five years that will bring rates closerto market level. After that, any increases will be subject to the approval ofthe city council and are expected to be at the rate of inflation.
    • These increases will be the firstin more than 20 years for more than 25,000 of the 36,000 meters.
    • By the middle of 2011, all metersmust have both cash and cashless payment options.The City Council retainsthe right to revise the meter increases, change the number of meters or thehours of operation. But to the extent the City takes action that negativelyimpacts meter revenue, it will be obligated to make the private operator whole.

Despite its problems, the Chicago deal should send a loud message to New York, and other big US cities, that they are leaving huge sums of potential public revenue untapped, and contributing to traffic congestion and air pollution by leaving meter rates too low.

Photo: itsbetteronamac/Flickr

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Opinion: Connect the Dots of Manhattan’s Missing Bike Lanes

Only a few miles of missing protected lanes stand in the way of a robust bike network.

April 15, 2024

Monday’s Headlines: Thanking the Academy Edition

We would be remiss if we didn't offer some photos and copy about Friday's George Polk Awards ceremony, plus other news.

April 15, 2024

Civic Panel Pushes For (Some) Atlantic Ave. Safety Upgrades

Brooklyn Community Board 2 stopped short of calling for a more aggressive redesign of a street where drivers have killed six pedestrians in the last decade.

April 15, 2024

Vandals Commit Mass Arborcide Near the Greenway in Kissena Park

Hundreds of young trees were ripped from the ground — some stolen, some just left for dead — near the greenway in Kissena Park in Queens.

April 14, 2024

Friday’s Headlines: The Polk’s on Us Edition

This afternoon, our reporter Jesse Coburn will journey to Midtown to accept Streetsblog's first George Polk Award, one of journalism's highest honors. But before that, here's the news.

April 12, 2024
See all posts