WBEZ | parking http://www.wbez.org/tags/parking Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en How often are cabs pulled over? And what for? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-often-are-cabs-pulled-over-and-what-109734 <p><p><a name="video"></a><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/0zK8vTcqQck?rel=0" width="620"></iframe><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/135672786&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Listen to this story on the Curious City podcast, including a debrief with question-asker Dan Monaghan and WBEZ reporter Odette Yousef, at minute 5:53 in the audio above.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Dan Monaghan bikes and drives and walks a lot in Chicago. He sees a lot on the road that irritates him, especially from cab drivers. But he doesn&rsquo;t see them getting pulled over all that often. So he wrote in to Curious City with a pretty simple question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>How often are taxis pulled over and what is the most often issued offense they receive?</em></p><p>Or at least it seemed simple when we took it on back in August. We figured a simple data request to the right city department would yield a clear-cut conclusion. But nearly a dozen Freedom of Information requests and six months later, here&rsquo;s the answer.</p><p>We don&rsquo;t know.</p><p>(<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Re72di5phM0">cue the crickets</a>)</p><p>But not all is lost. Because what we did learn on this long, strange trip is interesting in its own right. Our investigation afforded us a rare look inside the world of Chicago taxi drivers, and underlines what could be a tough road ahead &ndash; one increasingly <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cabbies-threaten-abandon-uber-over-changes-109625" target="_blank">riddled</a> with <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cab-livery-companies-sue-city-over-rideshare-companies-109655">potholes</a>, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cabbies-threaten-abandon-uber-over-changes-109625" target="_blank">speed</a> <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/silence-medallion-auction-puzzles-some-109546">bumps</a> and yes, the occasional ticket from law enforcement.</p><p>Fasten your seatbelts, and I&#39;ll try to explain.</p><p><strong>The data trail</strong></p><p>The first surprising thing we learned in tackling this question is that there&rsquo;s not one department that contains all the data. The city&rsquo;s Department of Finance has some, the city&rsquo;s Department of Administrative Hearings has some, the city&rsquo;s department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection has some, and the Circuit Court of Cook County has some too. Each of these required separate (and sometimes multiple) data requests.</p><p>In addition, the legal codes that underly the citations don&rsquo;t match up across departments. For example, there is an offense under the <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/bacp/rulesandregs/publicchauffeursrulesregs20121203.pdf">city&rsquo;s rules for taxi drivers</a> called &ldquo;reckless driving&rdquo; (see Rule CH5.08). There&rsquo;s also a part of the state&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?DocName=062500050HCh.+11&amp;ActID=1815&amp;ChapterID=49&amp;SeqStart=102800000&amp;SeqEnd=125900000">vehicle code</a> about &ldquo;reckless driving&rdquo; (Sec. 11-503). But these two things aren&rsquo;t necessarily identical &ndash; and they may not match up with what you, or I, might call &ldquo;reckless driving,&rdquo; were we to witness something on the street.</p><p>To put a finer point on it, the data we got back from the Circuit Court showed only ten citations written in 2012 to cab&nbsp;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/dan and odette.PNG" style="height: 222px; width: 370px; float: right;" title="Dan Monaghan, right, asked Curious City about the most common citations given to cab drivers. WBEZ's Odette Yousef, left, helped answer his question. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" />drivers for &ldquo;reckless driving.&rdquo; But the same data shows 1,433 citations that year for speeding. Some might consider speeding to be reckless driving, but tickets may be written under different parts of the code. Separately, that year the&nbsp;Department of Administrative Hearings shows 996 citations for &ldquo;unsafe driving&rdquo; (which, we&rsquo;ll explain a bit later, may be a vastly underreported figure). But &ldquo;unsafe driving&rdquo; under the city code is quite broad. It may include offenses that, under the state rules, would be filed under &ldquo;reckless driving&rdquo; and speeding.</p><p>This is all to say that even when we do get data, we can&rsquo;t just pool it all together for analysis. The same offenses may be defined differently, depending on whether you&rsquo;re looking at city code or state laws, and even those might not match up with what we, in our own minds, may consider to be dangerous conduct!</p><p><strong>The known knowns</strong></p><p>Most of the violations that taxi drivers get slapped with end up with the City of Chicago, and not with the Circuit Court of Cook County. But let&rsquo;s dwell on the latter violations for a bit, because the vast majority of them are for moving violations. This is likely what Dan was thinking about when he wondered how often taxis are pulled over: how often do police intervene when they see a taxi doing something wrong?</p><p><script id="infogram_0_adjudication-of-taxi-citations-2012" src="//e.infogr.am/js/embed.js" type="text/javascript"></script></p><p>There were more than 7,300 tickets written to taxis that were adjudicated by the Cook County Circuit Court in 2012. They were written out to about 4,300 different vehicles, but when you dig into it, each of those vehicles might have been used by several different drivers over the course of the year. For example, taxi plate 21188TX racked up the highest number of tickets for moving violations adjudicated by the Cook County Circuit Court in 2012 -- thirteen tickets in all. But those tickets were earned by three different people who drove that car.</p><p>Sorting by name doesn&rsquo;t really help either. According to this data, Mohammed Khan received a ton more tickets than anyone else in this data set &ndash; a whopping 27 in one year &ndash; but heavens knows how many Mohammed Khans are driving cabs in Chicago. It&rsquo;s not an uncommon name.</p><p>This makes it difficult for us even to give a range of numbers for taxi drivers who saw tickets. But the City of Chicago has about 7,000 cabs, so the number of times cabs would have been written tickets that headed to the Circuit Court would average out at about once per cab in 2012.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s the thing: not all tickets head to the Circuit Court of Cook County. Police may instead cite a violation of the city code instead, which means the ticket would end up going to the Department of Administrative Hearings. In 2012, that department recorded 996 cases of &ldquo;unsafe driving&rdquo; for taxis. But this does not necessarily mean they all resulted from a police pulling the vehicle over. Some may have. But many may have resulted instead from a 311 call.</p><p>Now, even though Dan asked about how often cabs are &ldquo;pulled over,&rdquo; we took a bit of creative license with his inquiry to find out more broadly what the most common tickets and citation were for cabbies. That is to say, not just tickets that resulted from a cop pulling a cab over, but also ones that may have been issued for parking violations, for example.</p><p><strong>These are things we know that we know</strong></p><p>Parking tickets and red light camera tickets are a big headache for cab drivers in Chicago. The city&rsquo;s Department of Finance tracks this information and provided us with humongous spreadsheets of all those tickets that were written in 2012. Turns out that year, more than 28,000 tickets were written to cab drivers for parking-related violations. This meshed pretty well with what cabbies told us, and helped us unearth a phenomenon we hadn&rsquo;t known of: the so-called &ldquo;fly tickets.&rdquo;</p><p>One driver who explained it to us was Al Smith, who had to file for bankruptcy because of $5,000 in overdue parking tickets alone. Smith noted that over the years, the city has gotten rid of many of its cab stands, eliminating sanctioned places for cabbies to pull into to pick up and drop off passengers. At the same time, Smith contended that the city has become more aggressive in ticketing drivers who pull over in tow zones or other restricted spaces for even brief moments to offload or pick up.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/04.jpg" style="float: left; height: 210px; width: 373px;" title="Cab driver Al Smith, right, filed for bankruptcy because of $5,000 in overdue parking tickets alone. Dan Monaghan, left, started this investigation into cab citations with his question for Curious City. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" />&ldquo;See this corner we just passed here at Union Station?&rdquo; he pointed out, &ldquo;The last space of that cab line is designated a tow zone. But they use it like a weapon.&rdquo; Smith explained that the city assigned a traffic enforcement agent specifically at that space to catch cab drivers who pull into that spot. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not parked there. We&rsquo;re just processing there,&rdquo; he explained. &ldquo;But if they catch you in that space, they will write you a ticket.&rdquo;</p><p>Many cab drivers complained of similar enforcement, noting that city rules allow cab drivers to pull over in restricted spaces for a few minutes to allow passengers on or off. But often the enforcement officers who write up the tickets do not hand them, in-person, to the drivers. Instead, they are posted in the mail, arriving in drivers&rsquo; mailboxes weeks after the offense allegedly occurred. A driver may have picked up and dropped off hundreds of people in the intervening time, and often cannot even recollect where she or he was at the time of the purported offense.</p><p>Red light camera tickets accounted for nearly 9,000 tickets to taxi drivers in 2012. That generated at least $843,000 dollars for the city (cha-ching!). Interestingly, there were a couple of taxis that were each issued 14 red light camera tickets that year alone. Does that count as reckless driving? Maybe. But with the automated ticketing system, the city no longer relies on police to pull them over.</p><p><script id="infogram_0_top-citations-issues-to-taxi-drivers-2012" src="//e.infogr.am/js/embed.js" type="text/javascript"></script></p><p><strong>There are known unknowns</strong></p><p>Aside from the data held by the Circuit Court of Cook County (mostly moving violations) and the Department of Finance (mostly parking and red light cameras), there is also untold amounts of data at the City of Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Administrative Hearings. This department keeps track of all citations issued under the city&rsquo;s Rules and Regulations for <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/bacp/rulesandregs/publicchauffeursrulesregs20121203.pdf">public chauffeurs</a> and for <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/bacp/publicvehicleinfo/medallionowners/medallionlicenseholderrulesregsf20120626.pdf">medallion owners</a>.</p><p>This is where we ran into problems. Despite having data on citations that were issued under those parts of the city code in 2012, the department is incapable of searching their database in useful ways. We submitted multiple requests for data of the top ten violations for taxi drivers in that year. But the department was unable to do this search, and asked us to specify which violations we wanted to know about. Obviously, this is not very helpful.</p><p>However, somewhat inexplicably, the department was able to tell us that the top two violations were for &ldquo;unsafe driving&rdquo; and &ldquo;discourteous conduct.&rdquo; As mentioned earlier, this department adjudicated fewer than 1000 citations for unsafe driving. However, it handled more than 4,000 citations for discourteous conduct.</p><p>But let&rsquo;s complicate this even more. James Mueller once worked for the city, and helped write many of the rules that still govern Chicago&rsquo;s taxi industry today. After he retired, he briefly used his lawyering skills to help cab drivers fight citations in the city&rsquo;s Administrative Hearings Court. He told us that this experience was revelatory, because often decisions &ndash; on both sides &ndash; were not reached according to what made the roads safer, but for what was more expeditious.</p><p>Mueller specifically saw this happen with cab drivers who came into the court after being cited for reckless driving. &ldquo;And the city will tell them on a reckless driving [charge], I would say probably 9 times out of 10, unless the person has a &nbsp;bad record, &lsquo;if you plead guilty I&rsquo;ll amend the charge from reckless driving to general simple discourteous conduct and offer a relatively low fine,&rsquo;&rdquo; Mueller said.</p><p>Often, the cab driver would take the deal, said Mueller, because the penalty for discourteous conduct is a relatively minor fine. On the other hand, if the driver were to be found guilty of reckless driving, he or she would have to go back to public chauffeur training school, undergo a physical exam and get a drug test. At the worst, this risks his or her license, and at best, results in a loss of income for several weeks while they try to get reinstated.</p><p>&ldquo;So a lot of those reckless driving charges, whether they happened or not, get shifted to general discourtesy,&rdquo; said Mueller. &ldquo;And that way it&rsquo;s more efficient for the city to handle all of those cases, you get all these guilty pleas, you get all of this money coming in, and that&rsquo;s the way it works.&rdquo;</p><p><script id="infogram_0_taxi-complaints-from-311-calls-2012" src="//e.infogr.am/js/embed.js" type="text/javascript"></script></p><p>We asked the city&rsquo;s Department of Administrative Hearings if they could share data on what the original charges, and what the amended charges were for each of the citations in 2012. It could not provide us with that data. So in the end, the information we received about discourteous conduct and unsafe driving from this source may be completely unreliable.</p><p>One thing this could explain, however, is the enormous mismatch between cab complaints called in via 311, and the violations that the city adjudicates. In 2012, the city took about 14,000 calls about taxis. Half of those were to report reckless driving. Fewer than 1,200 were to report a &ldquo;rude&rdquo; cab driver. Less than 5 percent of those 311 calls ended up with a case being filed with the city&rsquo;s Department of Administrative Hearings. It turns out, the vast majority of 311 callers either don&rsquo;t take note of essential details about the cab that irked them (such as its cab number), or they don&rsquo;t follow through with filling out an affidavit of the complaint.</p><p><strong>Finally, there are also unknown unknowns</strong></p><p>On top of the data we requested (and mostly didn&rsquo;t receive) from the Department of Administrative Hearings, there is a whole spectrum of other violations that a cab driver might receive. Typically, these would be for non-moving violations &ndash; things relating to the condition of his or her vehicle, like whether a tail light is out, or whether there are scratches on the vehicle.</p><p>This may not be what Dan was originally getting at in his question, but it became apparent in talking to people that these kinds of infractions can add up to significant cost and inconvenience for both drivers and cab owners. On the flip side of that coin, they also can add up to hefty revenue for the city. Unfortunately, the Department of Administrative Hearings was unable to provide us with any data falling under this section of the municipal code.</p><p><strong>In sum&hellip;</strong></p><p>In sum, it sounds like taxi drivers are hit with tickets more than other drivers are &ndash; whether they be pulled over by a cop, caught by a red light camera, or later receive a &ldquo;fly ticket&rdquo; in the mail. And it&rsquo;s not just city agents that are keeping an eye on them. They&rsquo;re subject to scrutiny by other drivers, bikers, and pedestrians who call 311 and can report violations.</p><p>The industry, too, has some interest in keeping the worst drivers off the road. Responsible taxi affiliation companies keep track of how safe drivers are, because they don&rsquo;t want to foot higher insurance premiums for the unsafe ones.</p><p>&ldquo;We have to be at an ultimate &ndash; or a heightened &ndash; level of awareness a lot of times,&rdquo; said Smith, the cab driver, &ldquo;which is stressful.&rdquo;</p><p>But Dan&rsquo;s question asked for a number &ndash; how many times cabs are pulled over. And unfortunately we couldn&rsquo;t get that for him. Still, we hope this helps lift the veil a bit on the complicated world of taxi rules and code enforcement.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;">@oyousef</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;">@WBEZoutloud</a></em></p></p> Wed, 19 Feb 2014 11:58:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-often-are-cabs-pulled-over-and-what-109734 Street sweeping: Essential service or revenue scam? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/street-sweeping-essential-service-or-revenue-scam-109221 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: We&#39;ve updated this story with answers to <a href="#questions">follow-up questions you submitted. </a>Sincere thanks for those. Please keep them coming!</em></p><p>Street-sweepers. It turns out those zamboni-looking vehicles are some of the most complicated machines in Chicago&rsquo;s Streets and Sanitation Department. And coincidentally, they seem to be causing lots of complications for drivers (and boyfriends of drivers) across the city.</p><p>One of those boyfriends in particular is Dan Costalis, a web developer who lives in Chicago&rsquo;s West Lakeview neighborhood. Dan hasn&rsquo;t owned a car in about five years or so, but his girlfriend does, and according to Dan, knowing when and where to move her car to avoid tickets during street-cleaning season totally stresses her out. &nbsp;</p><p>So he turned to Curious City and asked:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>What&rsquo;s the deal with street cleaning? Does it actually do anything?</em></p><p>Dan feels like this whole street-sweeping thing might sorta be a scam; perhaps the work is less about leaves, and more about raking in the dough.</p><p>&ldquo;From what I&rsquo;ve seen, you know, the before and after doesn&rsquo;t look much different,&rdquo; Dan said. &ldquo;And if they&rsquo;re giving out tickets and putting up parking restrictions and these aren&rsquo;t doing anything, you know, what&rsquo;s the point?&rdquo;</p><p>Now, we here at Curious City can&rsquo;t change any minds about whether to feel scammed (or not scammed) by the street sweeping service or the related tickets. But we can certainly lay out the facts (there are a lot of them), how the service works, and what, if anything, it does to keep Chicago running well.</p><p><strong>The how and why of street sweeping</strong></p><p>To understand &ldquo;what the deal is&rdquo; (per Dan&rsquo;s vocabulary), it helps to understand how street sweepers operate, so I headed to the intersection of Erie Street and Milwaukee Avenue on a brisk, fall (or, let&rsquo;s be honest, early winter) morning in November. There to greet me was one of the city&rsquo;s 50 street sweepers. This particular machine was decked out with Blackhawks logos as well as the &ldquo;One Goal&rdquo; motto that celebrated the hockey team&rsquo;s 2013 Stanley Cup win. Our driver: Stan Newsome, a seven-year street sweeping veteran.</p><p>We let our <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmoSemxMLzY" target="_blank">video </a>do the heavy lifting when it comes to how the process works. In it, you can see that Newsome&rsquo;s ride is equipped with multiple brooms that whisk leaves and debris off the street and into a container. There&rsquo;s also a little water-sprayer off the side that helps wash away any additional stuff that&rsquo;s left over. These sweepers take what they collect and dump it into a dumpster before heading to the next section. Multimedia producer Jian Chung Lee caught Newsome&rsquo;s sweeper miss some things on the first pass, but after the second or third runs there was little left but a few broken leaves. As you can see, too, stray parked cars make the work less effective.</p><p>More on that later ...</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/photo 1_0.JPG" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 247px; width: 185px;" title="The view from the left side interior of a city of Chicago street sweeping machine. For ease of operation, controls include a dial that measures speed in the range between turtle and rabbit. (WBEZ/Lauren Chooljian)" />But what about the <em>why </em>of the whole operation?</p><p>Streets and Sanitation Deputy Commissioner Charles Williams offered a short explanation.</p><p>&ldquo;[In] Chicago, we maintain very clean streets with these street sweepers,&rdquo; he said, adding that clean streets translate into cleaner sewers as well &mdash; year round.</p><p>&ldquo;The way the city is built, it&rsquo;s real important to have all the water drain down,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Say, for instance, in the wintertime when you have all the snow plows out and they&rsquo;re melting the snow, if the water has nowhere to drain, all the streets are clogged up with excess slush.&rdquo;</p><p>Gross. And, more than that, potentially dangerous.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re gonna have huge puddles of water. ... That&rsquo;s gonna freeze over and you&rsquo;re gonna have ice.&rdquo;</p><p>And Williams said there&rsquo;s no other option or better machine available than a sweeper. They can run year round, except, of course, during inclement winter weather, though you&rsquo;ll most likely to see them from the spring to late fall. Each sweeper has a price tag of $168,000 and each racks up approximately $40-45 thousand dollars in annual maintenance costs.</p><p>According to Williams, without sweepers, the city would have to resort to a much more expensive option: manual labor.</p><p><strong>The math and the calendar</strong></p><p>So, now that we understand why street sweeping happens in the first place, let&rsquo;s get into Dan&rsquo;s sneaking suspicion that ticket revenue is in the proverbial driver&rsquo;s seat.</p><p>Right now if you leave your car parked in an area that&rsquo;s going to be cleaned, you can practically guarantee your vehicle will be adorned with a bright, orange $50 ticket. Next year, the city could raise the cost to $60.</p><p>If this is a familiar territory for you, dear reader, you are far from alone. According to data from the Department of Revenue, the city has taken in more than $15 million in just street-sweeping ticket revenue every year for the past five years. So far this year, drivers have paid $15,336,802. That&rsquo;s about 17 percent of the total revenue brought in by parking tickets this year. And the sweeping season&rsquo;s not finished; foliage was delayed this year, Williams said, and crews will be sweeping later than usual to grab leaves before the heavy snow comes around.</p><p>According to city spokeswoman Kelley Quinn, every dollar paid from these tickets goes into the city&rsquo;s corporate fund, which means the revenue&rsquo;s not earmarked for anything in particular. So it&rsquo;s not as if Dan&rsquo;s friend pays a street-sweeping parking ticket and it goes directly to the Streets and Sanitation guys and gals: It all goes into one pot.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/lauren_chart.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 5px;" title="According to data from the Chicago Department of Revenue, the city has taken in at least 14 million dollars in parking ticket revenue from street-sweeping violations alone each year for the past five years. (WBEZ/Lauren Chooljian)" /><a name="Chart"></a>To keep that $15 million figure in perspective, it costs the city about $8.5 million a year for street-sweeping itself.&nbsp;</p><p>Here&rsquo;s one more relevant detail: The timing of street cleaning is another point of drama for some drivers. Williams says every spring, the city meets with ward superintendents to plan out the sweeping calendar. Schedules are <a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Sanitation/Map-Street-Sweeping-2013/rjwk-epe7" target="_blank">posted online</a> so residents can &ldquo;plan ahead.&rdquo; Once it&rsquo;s sweeping time, the city will post bright orange signs the day before or the morning of to warn drivers of what&rsquo;s to come.</p><p>To Dan&rsquo;s concerns that ticketing during cleaning might be a revenue grab, the city contends that&rsquo;s not the case.</p><p>&ldquo;If they just pay attention to the signs, they don&rsquo;t get a ticket,&rdquo; Williams said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not a revenue thing, we would actually prefer them not to park on the street so that we can do our jobs and keep the streets clean.&rdquo;</p><p>For his part, Dan says all this makes sense, calling the process &ldquo;uncomfortably logical,&rdquo; but he is struck by the raw numbers involved. (&ldquo;That&rsquo;s a lot of money,&rdquo; he said). And he also wonders if maybe the city could work a harder to ensure drivers know when it&rsquo;s time to move their cars. He&rsquo;s had friends say they parked overnight, only to wake to a signs (and tickets) that weren&rsquo;t there the night before.</p><p>&ldquo;I know they&rsquo;ve got a job to do. I know they&rsquo;ve gotta make sure the drains don&rsquo;t clog and they&rsquo;re doing it for the good of the roads and everybody,&rdquo; Dan said. &ldquo;But if you don&rsquo;t have a chance to move your car, they can&rsquo;t do their job, and you get a ticket.&rdquo;</p><p><a name="questions"></a></p><p><strong>Your follow-up questions</strong></p><p>Turns out, Curious Citizen Dan Costalis wasn&rsquo;t the only Chicagoan interested in how the city sweeps its streets. Shortly after we published this story, readers left comments below, hit our Facebook page and tweeted burning questions that we couldn&#39;t ignore. We&rsquo;re happy to report we hit the airwaves about some of these on WBEZ&#39;s Morning Shift program as well as here.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/124519058&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe></p><p><em><strong>If it&rsquo;s so important to clean the streets, why wouldn&rsquo;t the offending cars get towed instead of ticketed?</strong></em></p><p>The city says in order to tow a vehicle, it still has to be ticketed first, so there&rsquo;s no avoiding that. Also, according to Molly Poppe, spokeswoman for the Department of Streets and Sanitation, towing vehicles would require additional staff that the department doesn&rsquo;t have.</p><p>Other cities, such as Boston, do tow vehicles for parking during designated street cleaning days. Boston city workers walk around and ticket offending vehicles, just like Chicago does; however, Boston contracts with private tow companies to whisk away any vehicle sporting a ticket.</p><p><em><strong>I noticed there&rsquo;s been a marked decrease in the city&rsquo;s street sweeping ticket collection since 2010, I wonder what explains this drop.</strong></em></p><p>The Department of Revenue wasn&rsquo;t able to come up with an answer at this time. And since there are a number of factors &mdash; and, perhaps, different departments&rsquo; opinions &mdash; that could play played into this, we&rsquo;re not on safe ground to say much more. But, we will keep digging!</p><p><em><strong>I&rsquo;ve been told the city can write a ticket every 15 minutes. That sounds like a revenue scheme to me!</strong></em></p><p>City spokeswoman Kelley Quinn offered to debunk this myth for us. She says motorists should only receive one street cleaning violation per day, per location. If you do get more than one ticket on the same day, in the same location, Quinn says the driver should contest those subsequent violations. Details on challenging parking tickets can be found <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/fin/supp_info/revenue/challenging_tickets.html" target="_blank">here</a>.</p><p><em><strong>If they have to extend the street sweeping schedule into December, how do they let people know?</strong></em></p><p>This actually happened while we were reporting out this story: The foliage came a bit late this year, so all of the leaves hadn&rsquo;t fallen by November 30th, the end of the regular sweeping schedule. Poppe says they&rsquo;ll stick signs up 36-24 hours in advance to let people know.</p><p>Also, it turns out the city is able to sweep in the winter &mdash; weather permitting, of course. Poppe says it&rsquo;s usually to keep the main arterials clean, so there&rsquo;s not much parking involved on those streets. But if there is, or if a residential street needs a sweep, Poppe says the signs will give residents a heads up that sweepers are coming.</p><p><em><strong>Still shaky on the details?</strong></em></p><p>Our listeners and social media followers had a lot of great tips about smartphone apps and websites meant to help ease car owners&rsquo; pain.</p><ul><li><a href="http://sweeparound.us/">http://sweeparound.us/</a> came to us via Twitter. Drivers can punch in their home address and the site uses city data to figure out when the next sweeping date is, what sweep area the house or apartment is in, and can even help set the driver up for alerts.</li><li><a href="http://en.seeclickfix.com/apps">SeeClickFix app </a>was an app we learned about from a commenter. It essentially is your smart phone&rsquo;s way to report neighborhood issues to 311</li></ul><p>Lastly, if you&rsquo;re a Chicago resident, it behooves you to ask your alderman questions. They might have an alert system set up for you. For example, Alderman Tunney office sends emails and text alerts the evening before and the morning of street sweeping operations within the 44th Ward.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> </a><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p><div><em>Correction: An earlier text version of this story suggested the Streets and Sanitation annual budget was $8.5 million. The department&#39;s budget for 2014 is $216 million, while the budget for street sweeping activity is $8.5 million.</em></div></p> Thu, 21 Nov 2013 19:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/street-sweeping-essential-service-or-revenue-scam-109221 Disability parking crackdown leads to 60 citations http://www.wbez.org/news/disability-parking-crackdown-leads-60-citations-104033 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/7403121340_9a6fc9703c_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Police issued 60 citations in the first weekend of a crackdown on people who park illegally in disability spaces &mdash; and they&#39;re not done yet.</p><p>Secretary of State Jesse White said in a statement Monday the enforcement effort will continue throughout the holiday season at shopping malls statewide.</p><p>White said the goal of the crackdown is to ensure disability spaces are available for people who need them.</p><p>Among the malls patrolled last weekend were Water Tower Place in Chicago, Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg and shopping centers in Rockford, Springfield, Carbondale, Champaign and Peoria.</p><p>Anyone caught illegally using a placard or disability license plates could be fined up to $500.</p><p>This is the seventh year of the holiday parking enforcement program. Last year, Secretary of State police issued 187 citations.</p></p> Tue, 27 Nov 2012 08:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/disability-parking-crackdown-leads-60-citations-104033 The high cost of downtown parking – in 1970 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/high-cost-downtown-parking-%E2%80%93-1970-101608 <p><p>Downtown garages are getting expensive &ndash; and we know what&#39;s happened to our parking meters. Yet this is nothing new. On this August 13th in 1970, Chicagoans were complaining about the high cost of parking.</p><p>&ldquo;Drive to the Loop to save money? Forget it!&rdquo; the <em>Tribune</em> said. And it did seem like the CTA offered a cheaper alternative. The basic bus or &quot;L&quot; fare was 45 cents. Even if a 10-cent transfer were added both ways, that worked out to $1.10 for a daily round trip.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/08-13--Loop%20parking.jpg" title="Pay for parking or take the 'L'? (photo by the author)" /></div><p>That cost compared to a minimum of $1.50 for all-day parking at the least expensive Loop garages. Luckily for the car-driving public, gas prices were holding steady at 40 cents a gallon.</p><p>The problem was supply-and-demand. There were about 53,000 parking spaces in the central part of the city. But new construction on the edge of downtown was taking over land occupied by parking lots. At the same time, that new construction was bringing more auto commuters into the area.</p><p>Parking rates varied by geography. Garages near State and Madison were most expensive &ndash; the typical charge was $4 for eight hours, with some places edging up to $6. As you moved outward, prices dropped. North and west of the river, you could expect to pay $1 or $2 for the same eight hours.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/08-13--State%20Street.JPG" title="'I think that car is pulling out!' (photo by the author)" /></div><p>Like any wise shopper, you could save money by doing comparison shopping. One Lake Street garage charged $1.50 for the first hour, and $3.50 for an eight-hour stay. A half-block down the street, the prices were $1.15 for the first hour, and a flat $3 for anything up to 24 hours.</p><p>The best rates were offered by the Grant Park Garage. Since it was owned and operated by the city, the garage functioned as a public convenience. More than 3,500 cars could be stored in the underground lot, with the maximum eight-hour price set at $1.70.</p><p>So now you are in the year 2012, and you read this story, and you see the cheap parking prices of four decades ago. You feel a little envy. But remember, all things are relative. Back in 1970, the newspaper that reported the story cost only 10 cents.</p><p>Sorry, got to go now. I&#39;ve got to buy another parking receipt to slap on my dashboard.</p></p> Mon, 13 Aug 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/high-cost-downtown-parking-%E2%80%93-1970-101608 Need a parking space? Look in your hand http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-29/need-parking-space-look-your-hand-91304 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-31/sfpark_app_iphone_v04_vert.png" alt="" /><p><p>It's one of the great frustrations of urban life: the seemingly unending search for a parking space.</p><p>Motorists drive themselves crazy circling the block looking for a place to park while wasting gas and polluting the air.</p><p>But the city of San Francisco has turned to technology for help — it is testing a smartphone app that shows drivers the location of available parking places. The app also tells them how much the space will cost, and prices are adjusted depending on demand.</p><p><a href="http://demetriusmartin.com/home.html">Demetrius Martin</a>, an actor and producer, recalls the stress of looking for work in San Francisco. "I had to learn the city under the duress of making it to an audition on time," he says. "You're probably going to have to park illegally and end up getting a ticket. That will be your fee for the day."</p><p>Martin is in his car, holding an iPhone, and launching a new app offered by the city. It gives a driver real-time information, on a block-by-block basis, about exactly where and when there are parking spaces available.</p><p><strong>Demand-based parking prices</strong></p><p>Red dots show there is extremely low availability, and blocks marked in sky blue or darker blue mean there's higher availability.</p><p>Sensors installed at more than 8,000 parking metered spaces and more than 12,000 spaces in city-owned garages allow the application to update itself every 60 seconds.</p><p>"I like that they have price and availability because that's — in any metro area — that's another challenge you have to consider," he says. "The prices per 20 minutes, let alone per hour are so high that you kind of lose your shirt."</p><p>Under this new system, parking meter prices are adjusted higher in areas with high demand. The idea is that higher prices will discourage drivers and push them to blocks where space is available. For now, rates can be changed only once a month.</p><p>This pricing structure and the parking app are part of a pilot project called <a href="http://sfpark.org/">SFpark</a>, which is funded through a $19.8 million federal grant from the Department of Transportation.</p><p>"One of the most exciting things about this project is that it's going to create an unprecedented data set — bringing together data from parking meters, parking sensors, citations, transit vehicles, sales tax," says Jay Primus, the manager of SF<em>park.</em> "And truly a case where technology is allowing us to be much smarter about how we manage parking."</p><p><strong>Other cities following suit</strong></p><p>So far about 25,000 people have downloaded the parking app. Other cities, including Los Angeles and Fort Worth, have also introduced smartphone parking apps.</p><p>Seattle is experimenting with demand-based parking prices. But San Francisco has the most comprehensive approach, says Donald Shoup, who teaches urban planning at UCLA.</p><p>"San Francisco is by far the most sophisticated and the highest-tech experiment with this, and I think if this works out in San Francisco — with their adjustable prices — that every city on earth with be copying it," he says.</p><p>But before that happens, people will be watching to see how much of a distraction the smartphone app is to drivers who are supposed to keep their eyes on the road. Martin confesses that problem is real.</p><p>"So here we are, I am trying to avoid looking at it but every time you're at a pause or a stop you're looking at this trying to find where the next parking space is," he says. "It's hard to not want to keep looking at it, and with some people it's a challenge, it's an ego challenge, and it's a game, you know."<br> <br> City officials are trying to downplay that risk. They say they always encourage drivers to look at the app before they start driving.</p><div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.</div></p> Mon, 29 Aug 2011 08:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-29/need-parking-space-look-your-hand-91304 Long-awaited Devon garage remains closed, despite political hoopla to the contrary http://www.wbez.org/story/50th-ward/long-awaited-devon-garage-remains-closed-despite-political-hoopla-contrary <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/forweb1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In the election rush last week, I fell behind on reading the free local, ethnic papers that I usually pick up every week from stores along Devon Avenue. I finally got around to picking them up on Thursday, and to my surprise, found that I had apparently missed a big story on Devon Avenue&mdash;perhaps the biggest it&rsquo;s seen in years. &ldquo;Alderman Stone opens major parking complex on Devon Avenue,&rdquo; <a href="http://www.indiatribune.com/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=5216:alderman-stone-opens-major-parking-complex-on-devon-avenue&amp;catid=25:community&amp;Itemid=457">touts</a> the India Tribune. Another local publication, <a href="http://www.hiindiaweekly.com/">hi India</a>, plastered a photo on the cover of its <a href="http://www.hiindiaweekly.com/show.aspx?pageID=1&amp;edition=02/18/2011">Feb. 18<sup>th</sup> issue</a> of Stone cutting a red ribbon in front of the garage, flanked by the project&rsquo;s developer, Mohammad Tariq Siddiqui.</p> <div>To understand why this is such a big deal, you have to rewind several years. Devon Avenue shoppers used to have a choice of several city-owned, metered lots when they patronized businesses along the street. But by 2006, Chicago had sold those properties to private developers. This particular lot, at Rockwell and Devon, was among them. In 2005 Siddiqui was awarded a contract that came with millions of dollars in tax increment financing. His design for the six-story complex would include retail space on the ground floor, condos above, and more than 230 parking spots.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>That was more than six years ago. In the meantime, Devon Avenue merchants have complained the parking situation has only worsened. They lost the city-owned lots, they&rsquo;ve seen parking meter rates increase, they feel that ticket enforcement is more aggressive than elsewhere in the city, and they&rsquo;ve watched the city restrict parking on more and more side streets to local residents only. Few merchants were happy to see the city sell the lot at Rockwell and Devon, but now they&rsquo;re just impatient to have it finished. &ldquo;Once they open, it will be no problem,&rdquo; said one business owner, who, like others, believes easier parking can help redress some of the difficulties brought on by the economic downturn.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>But here&rsquo;s the thing: the day I saw the headlines announcing the garage&rsquo;s opening, it was actually closed. In fact, the part of Rockwell Avenue that drivers have to turn onto to enter the complex was blocked off with a &ldquo;Do Not Enter&rdquo; sign. I went back a few days later to find that sign was gone, but I went inside the garage to take a gander, and the gate arms were up. There were a couple of cars in there, but construction materials still lay about. A bobcat machine blocked the exit. As I wandered out, I ran into Siddiqui, who confirmed that, despite the announcement to the contrary, the garage wasn&rsquo;t actually open and it might not be for a couple of weeks. So what was that hoopla about, a week before the election? &ldquo;It was just a ribbon-cutting,&rdquo; said Siddiqui.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Greg Brewer has a different take. &ldquo;They did the same thing four years ago,&rdquo; said Brewer, who just came off a second unsuccessful bid to unseat 50<sup>th</sup> Ward Ald. Bernard Stone. &ldquo;They had the big groundbreaking about two weeks before election, and then it just sat there.&rdquo; Brewer headed a lawsuit against Siddiqui in 2007, in which residents claimed the development violated local building covenants. The suit failed in court, and Stone blames it for delaying the project. Brewer dismisses that claim, saying that the group only sought an injunction for a couple of months.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Brewer isn&rsquo;t the only one that thinks the ribbon-cutting was just a politically-motivated charade. A business owner on Devon, who asked to remain nameless for fear of reprisals by city inspectors, sounded jaded when he talked about the whole thing. &ldquo;The alderman, he wanted to show it,&rdquo; the business owner said. &ldquo;Before the election, he wanted to show it.&rdquo; Stone tallied 38 percent of last Tuesday&rsquo;s vote, putting him in a runoff with challenger Debra Silverstein. Silverstein garnered 33 percent of the vote.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Stone and Siddiqui both deny shenanigans. &ldquo;It has nothing to do with the election,&rdquo; said Stone. &ldquo;I didn't set the ribbon cutting, the owner set the thing.&rdquo; Siddiqui says he set the time for the ribbon-cutting months ago, but that last month&rsquo;s blizzard kept the project from completion. &ldquo;The weather has created all kinds of time drama,&rdquo; said Siddiqui. &ldquo;This was planned because all the people that were willing to come (to the ribbon-cutting), they could come that day.&rdquo; So&hellip; keep your eyes open? Parking may (or may not) soon come to Devon.</div></p> Tue, 01 Mar 2011 17:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/50th-ward/long-awaited-devon-garage-remains-closed-despite-political-hoopla-contrary Illinois targets shoppers abusing accessible parking spots http://www.wbez.org/story/news/local/illinois-targets-holiday-shoppers-abusing-accessible-parking <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Handicapped Parking Spot.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Searching and circling for a parking spot this holiday season? If you're among the legions of drivers and shoppers desparate to find a place to park, beware:&nbsp; Illinois is cracking down on people who illegally park in accessible parking spaces.</p> <div>Secretary of State Police were out on Friday giving tickets to holiday shoppers who shouldn&rsquo;t be parking in spaces reserved for those with disabilities.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The police were combing the parking lots across the state. Locally, officers were at Woodfield, Oak Brook and Orland Park malls.</div><div>&nbsp;&nbsp;</div> <div>&quot;Primarily this is part of our annual enforcement detail that we conduct especially around the holiday season to get the message across to the public that spaces are reserved for persons with disabilities,&quot; said Bill Bodgan, disability liaison for the Illinois Secretary of State.&nbsp; &quot;They should be left open to those that truly need them.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But Bogdan says abuse escalates during the holiday season.</div><div>&nbsp;</div> <div>The fine for parking without an accessible placard or disability license can be up to $350.</div></p> Fri, 26 Nov 2010 17:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/news/local/illinois-targets-holiday-shoppers-abusing-accessible-parking