Tickets were 40 percent more likely to be issued to drivers from lower-income areas than to motorists who live in higher-income neighborhoods. | Sun-Times file photo

City to expand crackdown on illegal parking, boost debt collection

SHARE City to expand crackdown on illegal parking, boost debt collection
SHARE City to expand crackdown on illegal parking, boost debt collection

A technology-driven crackdown on illegal weekend parking in downtown Chicago has churned out 37,400 tickets through Sept. 30 and will be expanded citywide.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is counting on raising $10.8 million in 2018 through “data-driven enforcement and improved debt collection.”

Central to that effort is to build on the efforts that started small a year ago.

To create parking turnover that helps businesses serve more customers and reverse a 5 percent drop-off in ticket writing, the city’s parking enforcement aides started working in tandem with “contractor teams” on weekends, concentrating first on downtown.

City Hall is also upgrading the software used to issue parking tickets to include “data analytics” to help pinpoint where to deploy those weekend ticket-writers for maximum efficiency.

Some parking enforcement aides were reassigned to work weekends with employees from Serco, the private contractor previously working solo on weekend enforcement.

The teams were sent to bustling entertainment districts like downtown, River North and Wicker Park where bars, restaurants, nightclubs and stores serve as magnets for illegal parking.

They also worked in “various neighborhoods in need of increased enforcement of parking meters, residential permit parking and other violations,” with promising results.

Through Sept. 30, the weekend crackdown had generated more than 37,400 tickets and $2.6 million in revenue. That’s nearly twice as much as anticipated.

As a result, the crackdown will be expanded citywide, bolstered by the anticipated purchase of new hand-held computers that speed up the ticket-writing process and help the city’s 54 parking enforcement aides communicate with each other and with private contractors.

“We’re using data to determine the places where we should have more enforcement agents, times when we should have more enforcement agents. The thought is, we’ll be more effective by doing that,” Chief Financial Officer Carole Brown said this week.

Budget Director Samantha Fields added: “We’re refining the tools that we have and expanding the boundaries of where we implement some of these new processes.”

That’s not the only debt collection initiative in the mayor’s 2018 budget. The spending plan also includes:

* A crackdown on the ground transportation tax that’s supposed to be paid by “non-Chicago public vehicles” for each day the vehicle departs from O’Hare or Midway Airport. Those vehicles were “always subject to the tax, but enforcement was challenging because the vehicles were not licensed by the city,” the 2018 budget overview states.

To close that “loophole,” City Hall hired a “third-party to install enforcement technology” at both airports that “provides registration and account information on suburban taxi companies,” the overview states.

“The system [that began July 1] automates payments of the ground transportation tax per day for each suburban taxi vehicle that departs from O’Hare and Midway with a passenger,” the document states, pegging 2018 revenues at $1 million.

* Using an education and amnesty program to rein in “business subscribers to satellite television” that are either dodging the city’s amusement tax or unaware of their obligation to pay it.

Through September, the city had already boosted amusement tax collections by $1.1 million “by launching a voluntary disclosure program without penalties or interest.” Businesses were “educated on their requirements to pay and allowed to retroactively remit owed amusement tax revenue,” the overview states.

The same education-and-amnesty approach will be used to boost collections of the city’s use tax in the construction industry, where there is a “high rate of non-compliance” among small and medium-sized contractors, officials said.

* Using unspecified “technology-based solutions” to eliminate “intentional and deliberate failure” by valet parking companies to pay the city’s 22 percent parking garage tax for monthly, weekly and daily parking and the 20 percent tax for daily parking in garages on weekends.

Parking tickets in the Central Business District range from $60 for parking in a no-parking zone to $65 for parking at an expired meter.

Other fines include $90 for standing or parking in a bus lane; $100 for parking in a no-parking zone during rush-hour, double parking or standing; and $150 for parking or standing in a bicycle path or alley.

Parking tickets are a major source of revenue for the city, generating roughly $185 million a year.

That’s even though ticket-writing declined last year by five percent while booting of vehicles rose by ten percent.

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