TagMayor Daley

Tell me I’m wrong with my Parking Meter Deal Part Deux calculations

A parking meter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, displays the word “fail”. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

I want nothing more than to believe Mayor Rahm Emanuel has created a good deal but I believe his own parking meter deal is just as ridiculous as the deal – from Richard M. Daley and 45 aldermen – that preceded it.

Rahm’s deal changes none of what Chicagoans abhor about the current deal, which include:

  • It scheduled many price increases, without offering the buyer, those who pay to park, any additional value. Value could come in the form of a parking benefit district, where the revenues pay for local infrastructure improvements.
  • The city gets none of the revenue (it collects fines, though).
  • It costs us more than we ever expected (disabled parking placard, reimbursement for street closures, road work, and festivals).
  • It removes control from the city administration and aldermen over our streets. Thanks goes to Active Transportation Alliance for pointing this out in their excellent June 2009 original report (since retracted and revised) in which the organization said, “As a result [of the lease], planners and neighborhoods have lost control over one of their most powerful urban planning and revenue generating tools.”

It changes nothing that policy makers dislike about it:

  • We can’t implement dynamic or market or congestion pricing, unless the revenues for CPM stayed the same or were increased (although this would have to be negotiated).
  • It throws another cog into the city’s plans to expand bike lane mileage. We’re already having a difficult time with merchants not wanting to lose parking in front of their store, despite all the evidence pointing to bike lanes increasing revenues. To make way for a bike lane, the metered parking space has to be moved to an equally valuable spot within the same Parking Region. The alderman has to get involved and it’s not an easy process.

Rahm’s deal, which the city council must approve as an ordinance, doesn’t help Rahm’s priorities.

The Active Transportation Alliance report said, “This lease agreement [from 2009] compromised the city’s ability to adjust parking policy; because of the agreement terms, meters will be the primary consideration in the planning of our city streets. Everything else, from traffic flow to pedestrian, bicycle and transit facilities may only be considered after meters and their corresponding income has been considered.”

Rahm’s new deal doesn’t change that, but in fact will likely give CPM the same or more revenues under the plan. It will reduce the chargeable hours by 12 hours on one day (the newly free Sunday) and increase by 1 hour at more valuable times (weekday and weekend evenings) in areas that charge $2 and $4 per hour, and is increased by 3 hours at the same times in areas that charge $6.50 per hour. I’ve attempted to estimate how much more revenue with the spreadsheet below.

The city isn’t saving $1 billion – it hasn’t spent that money and there was no surety that it would; the press release acknowledges this, calling them ” estimated future charges”. The point here is that CPM and the city have agreed on how things like street closures and disabled parking placards will be paid for (by the city). CPM isn’t going to agree to any deal that reduces the value of the company to its shareholders.

No one asked to have free parking on Sunday. No one asked to have free parking on any day. Sunday is the day when people drive the least! If anyone deserves a break, it shouldn’t go to a small segment of the popular (“Sunday churchgoers”, Rahm said, acting as if they’re being harmed, and excluding churchgoers who don’t attend on Sundays), but to everyone who had to pay more than the parking space was worth and anyone who couldn’t get a bike lane in while people are being doored left and right.

Why else is free parking a bad idea? The experts at Active Transportation Alliance wrote:

Underpriced curb parking is a hidden source of traffic congestion and stimulates the most inefficient form of urban transportation. Underpriced parking encourages drivers to cruise for cheap parking, which harms everyone’s health and safety, slows down automobiles and buses behind the cruiser, and provides little benefit to the cruiser. It is a danger to bicyclists and pedestrians because cruisers focus on finding the right spot, not on whether a pedestrian is crossing the street.

It’s this last point, the lack of focus on anything but the parking spot, that is believed to be the cause of a cyclist being severely injured last week on Milwaukee Avenue.

Just like Daley, Rahm didn’t consult the one alderman whose ward might be affected most (it’s unknown if any aldermen were consulted). If this trend of the current city council being the most “rubber stamping” in all time (by my favorite local blogger Whet Moser), I predict it’ll be passed.

Calculations

[table id=8 /]

Since the number of spaces doesn’t change between the old and new scenarios, there is no need to calculate the total $ per space per region. Revenue estimate assumes the space is always occupied. In the new scenario, proposed by Rahm Emanuel and CPM, all spaces not in neighborhoods have become slightly more valuable, enough to more than make up for the reduced value of spaces in neighborhoods.

Updated May 3, 2013, 15:51 to add a link to the current version of Active Transportation Alliance’s parking meter report and to say that it replaced the original report. 

Book review of Steve Inskeep’s “Instant City: Life and death in Karachi”

Bear with me, this is my first book review since high school when the majority of the work was summarizing parts of the book and how you liked it. I feel that a book review at this age should be add in a critique about the book’s topic, strengths, and shortcomings. (Numbers in parenthesis are page numbers.)

A bus in Karachi carries more passengers than seems safe. The photographer’s accompanying essay is worth reading. Photo by Ejaz Asi. 

Buy the book on Amazon.

The premise of the book is that it’s about an “instant city”, one that grows from 500,000 to 13 million in 50 years – probably what you thought it would be like. I felt that the author never defines the instant city in a single sentence, paragraph, or page*. He instead uses the stories and interviews and little explicit mentions here and there. His approach, though, is more interesting and readable than what you might find in a book about urban planning or theory.

The instant city Inskeep refers to is Karachi, Pakistan, on the Arabian Sea. It used to be the capital of Pakistan until an army general tried to create his own Brasilia at Islamabad (no word in the book on if this was accomplished). Continue reading

The power of the letter

If you want something changed, chances are you’re going to have to write to someone about it.

I wanted a few things changed last year. I first wanted Dominick’s (Safeway) to install a bike rack at their store after they removed the shopping cart gates (which was doing a decent job of serving as bike parking). If you follow the blog, you saw the positive results from my letter to the CEO. When you want something done and you need someone else to do it, the first step is to tell someone (like calling 311 to report a pothole). But even that has its own prerequisites: You have to know what to say and who to say it to.

A friend and I wanted a bike lane “pinch point” removed from Halsted just north of the 16th Street BNSF viaduct that separates University Village and Pilsen. It wasn’t just us who wanted it out, though. We talked to our friends and I talked to some bike shop employees – they were aware of the issue and supported its removal.

It’s in the 25th Ward – my friend lives in the 25th Ward but at the time I lived in the 11th Ward). So he sent a letter explicitly and calmly describing the problem and a proposed solution to Alderman Danny Solis (now in a runoff against Cuahutemoc Morfin), cc’ing Mayor Richard M. Daley, and Ben Gomberg, coordinator of the Bicycle Program.

Demonstrating the pinch point. Not as dramatic as it is when there’s a bus or semi-truck or when the driver doesn’t drive as far to the left.

A before and after photo showing where cars could legally park and now where they cannot. The City added a tow zone sign next to the “no left turn” sign to mostly eliminate the pinch point at the start of the bike lane.

“Fast” service

The letters were mailed on October 13, 2010. The sign was installed on or before December 13, 2010. The change was felt immediately. Drivers simply stopped parking their cars in the newly created tow zone and the bike lane and this part of Halsted Street became just a little bit more pleasant to use – so thank you, Alderman Solis!

I’m finally writing this blog to tell you about the experience on March 4, 2011. Sorry – I got delayed!

Del Valle on Walmart stores and good governing in Chicago

This is juicy. I went to a friend’s house tonight (along with 40 other people) to hear and talk to Miguel Del Valle, candidate for Chicago mayor (the election’s on February 22). After he talked about his issues, we asked him questions on different issues or to expand on what he said earlier.

Someone in the audience asked about Walmart in Pullman. I’m not sure of the exact question, but Miguel answered: “I support a living wage. If I was mayor, I would not have vetoed the ‘big box ordinance’.” (Mayor Daley initially supported the big box ordinance that would have set a minimum wage for workers in stores of a certain square footage but vetoed the bill after it was approved by the city council.)

Not wanting to lose an opportunity to talk about such a contentious issue (now quickly becoming one for New York City), I spoke up and mentioned to Miguel that Walmart plans 30 more stores in Chicago (a few people gasped at the thought of this) and asked, “How do you feel about that?” He replied:

How do I feel about that? It won’t be my job to feel something about new Walmarts in the city. That’s the city council’s job. I want to liberate them [he said this on Wednesday night]. I want there to be an open, deliberative process, with debate and transparency. I want there to be public hearings in and outside the council chambers. Let the proponents speak, and let the opponents speak. Whether or not there should be more Walmarts in Chicago is up to the aldermen and their constituents to decide. There are areas in Chicago where stores that sell fresh groceries don’t want to move in, but Walmart is – people are willing to take what they can get.* What is appropriate in one neighborhood might not be appropriate for another, but that is not for the mayor to decide. The citizens must choose.

(I can’t believe I paraphrased his response so well. I mean, I rode home in 2°F cold so my body is really tired.)

One audience member wasn’t sure what it meant to “liberate aldermen” and asked, “Can you describe what that looks like?” She was curious about Del Valle’s “proposal” to have a democratic process in the city council chambers. He explained that the citizens elect aldermen to represent them when making and passing bills. It’s the mayor’s job to control the flow of bill introductions and voting.

He gave the example of the parking meter deal: The ordinance was introduced one day and voted on the next day. This wouldn’t happen if Del Valle was mayor because he would require debate, transparency, hearings, and such. As mayor, he would immediately engage Morgan Stanley to try to renegotiate the terms of the lease. Unlike The Urbanophile, Miguel does not believe the city can buy back the meters – they’re far too valuable at this point.

He wants to make a structural change – the way governing should be but hasn’t been during the Daley administration. I support him in this effort.

*I would prefer that our TIF dollars be used for what they were designed for: improving the economic conditions in blighted areas. TIF money is supposed to be used to pay for capital projects that would not occur in that area if not for the TIF funding. Maybe Pete’s Fresh Market or Roundy’s needs a bit more incentive. The Walmart contribution to the tax rolls is not all it’s cracked up to be! Also consider how big companies like Walmart, and now Costco in the Illinois Medical District, consistently receive tax brakes. These are the very companies that can most afford paying taxes.

Don’t vote for this guy

Will the next Chicago mayor be the same kind of urban planner like Richard M. Daley was? Will they build new parks and libraries at the same time they sell off infrastructure at a fraction of its value or abuse Tax Increment Financing funds?

I attended the UIC mayoral candidate forum on Wednesday to find this out. There was some talk about creating an open and transparent government (Patricia Watkins), with budgets that a 5th grader could read and spending denoted for each Ward or Community Area (I really like these ideas).

One candidate, Fredrick White, wants to support the building of a water bottling plant that would bottle water with “CHICAGO” on the label and have it sold in local stores and restaurants in order to create jobs (I don’t like this idea at all).

Fredrick K. White is probably telling the audience to visit his website.

I liked Miguel del Valle’s responses to the question about paying for higher education and ensuring the University of Illinois is funded. He recommended better integrating the community colleges and supporting the 3+1 program, where the final year of a bachelor’s program is completed at a university.

At least two candidates want to create technology parks, one even saying he wants Chicago to become the Silicon Valley of the Midwest. Another said Chicago can become the hotbed for nanotechnology development (William Walls).

Whatever was said, it wasn’t said by Fenton Patterson. I can’t recall anything he said. When responding to questions, he swaggered to the front of the stage, pulled his jacket back, stooped his head down, mumbled something that didn’t answer any question that was asked. His demeanor looked like that of a detective on [insert name of cop TV show here] ready to grill a perpetrator.

This forum was the first step in weeding out bad candidates like Fenton Patterson.

More of my work on the Chicago elections:

MBAC meeting now online

In a small victory for open government (Gov 2.0), one new City of Chicago meeting has gone “live.”

Well, it was live two Wednesdays ago (if you showed up at City Hall at 3 PM on the 11th floor*), but you can watch the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council on Ustream. Thanks to Jim Limber for setting up the webcam and streaming it. I haven’t watched it yet; you can also read the meeting minutes and see one of the distributed handouts.

MBAC is where people involved in bicycle projects come together to talk about them. It includes riding and racing clubs, police, city agencies, CTA, advocacy groups, messengers, and regular citizens.

An MBAC meeting in June 2009. This was a special meeting and the only relevant photo I had for this blog post.

*I missed this MBAC; first one since working at the Chicago Department of Transportation, where I started in October 2007. I’ll be leaving at the end of this month and I’m looking for new employment. You can hire me.

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