While the national economy has been on everyone’s mind for a very long time now, recently I have been wondering about the health of the local Chicago economy. Specifically, I have been contemplating the trickle-down effect the new parking meter system has on local businesses.
Last year Mayor Daley made the controversial decision to privatize the parking meters in the city. In a matter of 48-hours he rammed his decision through City Hall and sold the rights to Morgan Stanley Communications and Chicago Parking Meteres LLC. With the new system, Morgan Stanley is allowed to keep all revenue generated from the meter machines, while the city keeps the revenue generated from tickets issued to vehicles with expired tickets.
What Impact Do the Meters Have on the Economy?
Here is where the larger state of the City’s economy comes in to question. While driving around Chicago yesterday I decided it would be nice to have a hot latte from Starbucks. I pulled up outside, and luckily, I found a spot right in front of the store. I then realized the parking meter pay kiosk was halfway down the block. I sat in my car for a second and thought, “if this were the old days, I could throw a quarter in a meter run in and I would have my wonderful hot latte in my hands.” The walk to the meter in the cold weather led me to pull away without my hot latte.
I then began wondering how Starbucks would feel knowing they missed out on a sale due to the fact that the parking meter station was too far away from their establishment. And, I wondered how many sales they miss on a daily basis due to this setup. To take it further, I started asking friends and colleagues if they make shopping decisions based on the meter situation. I found a resounding “yes.” One person stated that she will go out of her way to avoid the Walgreen’s with no parking lot and find a store that has free parking. I also repeatedly heard people say they avoid carry-out restaurants without a drive-through or a loading zone. I used to park at a meter right outside my office. I was happy to run out and feed my meter every couple of hours. It only cost me $1.00 for one hour of parking. Now, because the pay kiosk is almost half way down the block, I will drive around to find free parking within the neighborhood. Again, the parking revenue is lost.
The Small Loses May Add Up
If you add up a simple latte from Starbucks and multiply that by the number of people that avoid the meter, that number could be astounding. Small businesses must be thrilled. I would like to see a “before and after” analysis of the revenue to the City, including all costs. I would also like to ask small business owners their feelings, but I am confident I can predict their response!