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Pandemic plunge: 52% decline in Chicago parking tickets, 42% drop in booting

Last year, 2.06 million parking tickets were issued in Chicago. This year, through June 30, only 498,980 tickets were written. Booting has seen a similar drop — from 57,196 in 2019 to just 12,018 during the first six months of 2020.

With a “boot” attached, the vehicle can’t be driven without inflicting damage.
With a “boot” attached, the vehicle can’t be driven without inflicting damage.
Sun-Times file

The stay-at-home shutdown and prolonged economic slowdown triggered by the coronavirus pandemic had such a chilling effect on driving for business and pleasure, auto insurance giants doled out rebates.

Now the impact is being profoundly felt on two of the city’s biggest revenue generators — booting and ticketing — just when Mayor Lori Lightfoot is counting on an additional $68 million in 2021 from what she calls “enhanced enforcement initiatives.”

Based on the first six months of this year, the city is on pace to write 52% fewer parking tickets in 2020.

Last year, 2.06 million parking tickets were issued on the streets of Chicago. Through June 30 of 2020, only 498,980 tickets were written.

Booting is headed for a 42% decline — from 57,196 during all of 2019 to just 12,018 during the first six months of 2019.

For years, ticketing and booting were headed in opposite directions. Parking ticket writing declined steadily while the city made greater use of the wheel-locking Denver boot.

That changed in 2018, when parking ticket writing stabilized but booting declined by 10.5% — just one year after an 11% increase.

Both declined last year — ticketing by 13.4%, booting by 8%.

City boot crews work from a list of more than 500,000 eligible license plates, many registered to motorists living outside Chicago.

Although booting volume is down, the list of wards with the most-booted motorists remained pretty much the same.

Once again, the Near West Side’s booming 27th Ward topped the city, with 543 boot scofflaws, down from 1,245 by this time last year.

That was followed by the 3rd Ward (536); the 6th Ward (445); the 28th Ward (440); the 41st Ward, which includes O’Hare Airport (down from 1,028 at this time last year to just 374); the 24th Ward (356); the 20th Ward (354); the 5th Ward (353); the 4th Ward (325); the 8th Ward (319); the 1st Ward (315) and 37th Ward (303).

As always, the ward with the greatest number of parking tickets written was downtown’s 42nd Ward. It had 134,056 tickets written through June 30 a year ago. It was 91,573 during the same period this year.

The next highest wards for parking tickets are: the 2nd, which includes the Gold Coast (24,959, compared to 45,730 last year); the 27th Ward (22,372, down from 91,836 last year); the 44th Ward, which includes Wrigley Field (19,075, compared to 46,219 last year); the 25th Ward (18,845); the 4th Ward (18,821); the 1st Ward (18,292); the 3rd Ward (14,192); the 43rd Ward (13,658) and the 5th Ward (11,236).

Parking Tickets

Ward Alderman Name 2019 2020 thru 06/30
Ward Alderman Name 2019 2020 thru 06/30
1 Daniel La Spata 88,147 18,292
2 Brian Hopkins 97,897 24,959
3 Pat Dowell 67,530 14,192
4 Sophia King 64,577 18,821
5 Leslie Hairston 50,476 11,236
6 Roderick Sawyer 29,004 6,302
7 Gregory Mitchell 19,534 4,277
8 Michelle Harris 24,701 6,475
9 Anthony Beale 19,439 5,706
10 Susan Sadlowski Garza 13,107 2,902
11 Patrick Thompson 40,714 6,446
12 George A. Cardenas 31,716 5,965
13 Marty Quinn 16,517 3,412
14 Ed Burke 26,648 5,937
15 Raymond Lopez 28,237 4,646
16 Stephanie D. Coleman 24,368 6,305
17 David Moore 24,204 5,409
18 Derrick Curtis 9,192 3,256
19 Matthew O�Shea 10,192 1,808
20 Jeanette B. Taylor 27,510 5,512
21 Howard Brookins Jr. 21,222 5,437
22 Michael D. Rodriguez 27,807 5,077
23 Silvana Tabares 19,440 4,148
24 Michael Scott Jr. 29,782 5,640
25 Byron Sigcho Lopez 90,118 18,845
26 Roberto Maldonado 36,903 6,952
27 Walter Burnett, Jr. 91,836 22,372
28 Jason Ervin 43,715 10,522
29 Chris Taliaferro 25,769 6,234
30 Ariel E. Reboyras 26,044 5,511
31 Felix Cardona, Jr. 29,520 7,205
32 Scott Waguespack 45,520 9,465
33 Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez 29,518 8,639
34 Carrie Austin 14,734 3,893
35 Carlos Ramirez-Rosa 36,718 8,601
36 Gilbert Villegas 18,809 4,240
37 Emma Mitts 22,158 5,598
38 Nicholas Sposato 10,997 2,481
39 Samantha Nugent 15,442 4,214
40 Andre Vasquez, Jr. 27,614 6,113
41 Anthony Napolitano 30,799 5,368
42 Brendan Reilly 282,700 91,573
43 Michele Smith 73,860 13,658
44 Thomas M. Tunney 93,491 19,075
45 James M. Gardiner 18,160 5,097
46 James Cappleman 43,599 9,029
47 Matthew J. Martin 44,356 9,704
48 Harry Osterman 27,509 5,360
49 Maria E. Hadden 32,408 6,443
50 Debra Silverstein 30,661 6,838
Undetermined 8,802 13,790
Total 2,063,721 498,980

At least some of the dramatic decline in ticketing and booting can be traced to Lightfoot’s March 18 decision to stop ticketing, booting and towing illegally parked vehicles, except for public safety reasons. The hope was to give some relief to residents whose jobs and paychecks have been impacted by the coronavirus.

The go-easy period continued until early July, when Chicago tiptoed into Phase 4 of its cautious reopening plan.

There was no parking meter holiday. Motorists still had to feed meter boxes — and some who didn’t complained about being ticketed. But City Hall didn’t try to collect overdue debt and no interest accumulated on existing payment plans. The ultimate penalty of booting vehicles was suspended.

The mayor’s bad news budget assumes Chicago will rake in $68 million in additional revenue in 2021 from “enhanced fine enforcement initiatives.”

Chief among them is Lightfoot’s decision to do what the City Council authorized former Mayor Rahm Emanuel to do, though he never did. That is, have Chicago’s 88 speed cameras strategically positioned around schools and parks churn out $35 tickets to motorists caught driving between 6 mph and 9 mph over the posted speed limit.

On Monday, Lightfoot defended that decision, saying it was needed to “keep communities safe” — even though it contradicts her campaign promise to “unwind the city’s addiction to fines and fees on the backs of low-income people.”

“We’ve seen, unfortunately, over the course of this year, a number of speed-related accidents and deaths go up exponentially. And we can’t ignore that reality. The hope is that, by being more aggressive in citing people for speeding around schools, around parks, that we’re gonna actually lower the amount of traffic-related accidents and fatalities,” the mayor said.

“Unlike fines for non-moving violations that did fall disproportionately on Black and brown Chicagoans and drove people into bankruptcy, people have control over whether … they speed or not. The signs are very well marked. And it’s my hope that people will take this as an opportunity to check their speed because we can’t afford to have more people injured and more lives lost.”

Boots by Ward

Ward Alderman Name 2019 2020 thru 6/30
Ward Alderman Name 2019 2020 thru 6/30
1 Daniel La Spata 1,474 315
2 Brian Hopkins 783 166
3 Pat Dowell 2,095 536
4 Sophia King 1,612 325
5 Leslie Hairston 1,715 353
6 Roderick Sawyer 1,800 445
7 Gregory Mitchell 1,441 279
8 Michelle Harris 1,632 319
9 Anthony Beale 1,388 289
10 Susan Sadlowski Garza 563 101
11 Patrick Thompson 881 234
12 George A. Cardenas 824 242
13 Marty Quinn 700 164
14 Ed Burke 896 188
15 Raymond Lopez 892 199
16 Stephanie D. Coleman 1,252 289
17 David Moore 1,455 282
18 Derrick Curtis 880 152
19 Matthew O�Shea 423 48
20 Jeanette B. Taylor 1,505 354
21 Howard Brookins Jr. 1,368 297
22 Michael D. Rodriguez 821 183
23 Silvana Tabares 1,255 218
24 Michael Scott Jr. 1,528 356
25 Byron Sigcho Lopez 1,131 272
26 Roberto Maldonado 1,310 276
27 Walter Burnett, Jr. 2,603 543
28 Jason Ervin 1,933 440
29 Chris Taliaferro 1,747 299
30 Ariel E. Reboyras 941 185
31 Felix Cardona, Jr. 1,106 237
32 Scott Waguespack 857 193
33 Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez 897 197
34 Carrie Austin 1,127 191
35 Carlos Ramirez-Rosa 975 200
36 Gilbert Villegas 929 202
37 Emma Mitts 1,715 303
38 Nicholas Sposato 558 96
39 Samantha Nugent 640 118
40 Andre Vasquez, Jr. 722 143
41 Anthony Napolitano 2,121 374
42 Brendan Reilly 714 147
43 Michele Smith 650 120
44 Thomas M. Tunney 721 173
45 James M. Gardiner 684 124
46 James Cappleman 792 174
47 Matthew J. Martin 686 124
48 Harry Osterman 482 104
49 Maria E. Hadden 857 174
50 Debra Silverstein 697 120
Unidentified 418 155
Total 57,196 12,018