Recently the rates on Chicago’s parking meters were jacked up and new meters were installed where previously there had been none. Most citizens are not pleased with this exciting new development and some of the more cynical residents of this great city suspect that there must be secret plans to funnel the anticipated increased revenue into an Olympics-related slush fund.
Over the last 20 years, finding free, legal parking in Chicago has gradually become akin to locating a website without pop-up ads. Since permit parking zones were first instituted decades ago, they have become a cancer, metastasizing throughout Chicago's neighborhoods. This writer has no issue with such zones, as long as 1) there is a preponderance of senior citizens and/or handicapped individuals who need to park close to their homes and 2) more than three quarters of the housing stock is apartment buildings without garages. However, you can now find permit parking on streets occupied by mainly single-family homes with garages. Don’t whine that restricted parking is needed because there’s shopping nearby, or a train station, or a Dairy Queen. These permit parking zones are not necessary. The aldermen simper, “But more than 50% of our residents want them.” Aldermen – and women – get a clue. If more than 50% of your children asked to be served ice cream for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, would you cede to their wishes? Sometimes you have to be smarter than your constituents and this is one of those times. Using garages for the purpose for which they were originally designed will solve the problem of residents not being able to find parking. Not meaning to insinuate that many garages are so full of crap that getting a car in there is harder than pulling a camel through the eye of a needle, of course.
That is my rant about permit parking, and it may be recycled later in this blog. For now, I would like to offer a nightmarish scenario as to where Chicago seems to be headed, getting-around-wise.
Now that LAZ Parking has done such a brilliant job of taking over our parking meters, let’s figure out some other ways to inconvenience and stealth-tax our drivers. How about installing 24-hour meters on the residential side streets, in the alleys and on the shoulders of the expressways. Those neighborhoods that are too blighted to merit meters (and where the installers would likely get mugged trying) can be permit parking only. Make sure that there is a hefty fee for the yearly – make that monthly – permit that the residents can’t afford.
Now that all streets are either metered or permit, let’s tackle the private garages. To enter his or her garage, an owner will be required to deposit a $10 bill, which will then be whisked into a secret Olympics 2016 fund. To exit the garage, come up with another $10. Stopping with drivers is for sissies. To make sure as many people are inconvenienced as possible, slash service on the CTA. Cut bus routes and hours of operation, and don’t forget to raise fares. To obtain one of those convenient “Chicago Cards”, require citizens to submit their Social Security Numbers and all bank/brokerage/credit card account info. Then eliminate payment by cash or regular fare card.
Let’s start licensing bike riders. The fees from all those licenses will help fund a new Olympic event, the “pothole slalom” and before you can say “Lance Armstrong” it’ll cost you to get around by bike. Finally, don’t spare the pedestrians. Set up a toll booth at every intersection. To cross any street, charge a toll of $5 per leg. To show that this is really a compassionate city, give any amputees a 5% discount, but make it exact change only, otherwise no deal.
If considering the above makes you crave copious quantities of alcohol, look on the bright side. Thousands of jobs in surveillance, security and law enforcement will be created. And won't it impress the Olympic Committee to be able to claim that our unemployment rate has gone from 10% to less than 3%?