Vandalism at parking meters up after rate hike

Chicago motorists are venting their anger about higher parking meter rates tied to a 75-year, $1.15 billion lease — with a spike in vandalism and a drop-off in on-street parking, the private contractor acknowledged Wednesday.

“We’ve certainly seen an uptick in the amount of vandalism at the meters. That suggests to me that some people are unhappy with the increase in the meter rates," said Mike Kuziak, chief operating officer of LAZ Parking, the operator hired by Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners.

"We've increased our resources to respond to meter maintenance issues to make sure the integrity of the system remains intact."

Kuziak said he was "not authorized to talk about revenue" and, therefore, could not put hard figures behind the anecdotal evidence supplied by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin that a boycott is brewing to protest rates that require motorists to pump 28 quarters into Loop meters for two hours of parking.

But he said, "Clearly, as the rates have increased, there are people who are unhappy about it, and there are people who will seek alternative parking. That will free up more spaces on the street for the benefit of the merchant community."

Marin reported Sunday that she had observed open meters on Clark Street in Lincoln Park, on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park and on Columbus Drive around the Sheraton Hotel during midweek, mid-day hours, when it would normally be difficult to find a space.

A barrage of angry e-mails only bolstered her contention that the empty spaces signal a backlash to the rate hikes, elimination of free Sunday parking and to the contractor's decision to issue parking tickets to "supplement" the city's enforcement efforts.

from the Sun-Times

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