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Parking ticket writing, booting drop in Chicago

Based on the first six months of the year, Chicago is on a pace to write 13.4% fewer parking tickets in 2019 than it did in 2018. Booting also is declining, and is on track to be down 8% this year compared to last.

A boot attached to a vehicle in Chicago.
Fewer vehicles are being booted in Chicago.
Sun-Times file photo

Mayor Lori Lightfoot campaigned on a promise to raise the boot threshold, stop booting for non-moving violations and eliminate a hefty chunk of red light cameras at 149 intersections if those cameras were used for revenue — not safety.

The City Council has already approved the first installment of Lightfoot’s plan to go easier on scofflaws at a first-year cost of $15 million.

Against that backdrop, the latest numbers on booting and ticketing should come as no surprise.

Based on the first six months of this year, the city is on a pace to write 13.4% fewer parking tickets; 2.28 million tickets were issued during 2018, compared to 988,404 written through June 30 of this year.

Booting is headed for an 8% decline — from 59,817 during all of 2018 to 27,529 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 last year, when parking ticket writing stabilized while booting suddenly declined by 10.5% just one year after an 11% increase.

Now, both are going down.

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 home to the most-booted motorists remained pretty much the same.

Once again, the Near West Side’s booming 27th Ward topped the city, this time with 1,245 boot scofflaws.

That was followed by the 3rd Ward (1,041); 41st Ward, which includes O’Hare Airport (1,028); 28th Ward (887); 37th Ward (868); 6th Ward (845); 5th Ward (826); 4th Ward (791); 8th Ward (789) and 20th Ward (709).

As always, the ward where the greatest number of parking tickets were written was the downtown’s 42nd with 134,056 parking citations.

The ward had 152,583 tickets written through June 30 a year ago. It was 134,056 during the same period this year.

The next highest wards for parking tickets are: the 2nd, which includes the Gold Coast (45,730); the 44th that includes Wrigley Field (46,219); the booming 27th Ward (44,670); the 25th (42,088); the 1st Ward (41,144); the 43rd that includes Lincoln Park (35,017); the 3rd (32,650); the 4th (28,282) and the 5th (24,118).

Ald. Sophia King (4th) said “black and brown communities seemed to have born the brunt of ticket writing.” She asked City Comptroller Reshma Soni what’s being done to change that.

Soni noted 65% of ticket-writing is done north of Madison Street. She also disclosed the number of parking ticket enforcement “zones” was recently increased dramatically — from 120 to 194.

“As there are changes in areas that are developing, we need to concentrate more on those areas. We need more enforcement out there. So, we’ve rezoned to be able to move our parking enforcement aides and our contractors to those new directions,” Soni said.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) complained about trucks “that sit there all day long” and “block entrances … on Wells Street between Randolph and Washington, adding: “I have never seen police there.”

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) pointed to the commercial loading zones created by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city’s utter failure to enforce those regulations.

“If there’s no enforcement, we may want to consider flipping a large chunk of commercial loading zones back to previous use,” Reilly said.

Lightfoot’s budget calls for generating $7 million in annual revenue by raising parking meter rates. The new rates are:

• $7 an hour, up from $6.50, in the Central area that includes the downtown theater district, Millennium Park and the Art Institute.

• $4.50 an hour, up from $4, in a broader area that stretches from North Avenue to Roosevelt Road and from Lake Michigan to Halsted Street.

• $4.50-an-hour, up from $2, in the area bounded by Grand and Ashland avenues, and Van Buren and Halsted streets.

Lightfoot also plans to install new meters in the West Loop and authorize “future automatic rate increases based on inflation at 25 cents per increase” to match a similar cost-of-living increase in the “true-up” payment used to compensate Chicago Parking Meters LLC for meters taken out of service for construction and special events.

On Monday, the mayor’s finance team assured aldermen the plan is on solid legal ground — even though the widely-despised parking meter lease, with 65 years remaining, appears to give Chicago Parking Meters LLC the right to all meter revenues.