Want to park your car for two hours in Chicago?  Bring 28 quarters plus a few more if you need more time.

Carol Marin says the hike in parking fees has caused a mild rebellion among commuters.  Apparently there are quite a few open spots on the streets of Chicago:

At noon in Wicker Park, where Milwaukee Avenue is usually packed with parked cars, there were open meters waiting.

And at 2 p.m. around the Sheraton Hotel on Columbus Drive, a place where normally you can’t crowbar your car into a space, there were at least three or four parking spaces. What’s up with this?

What’s up is that a month ago, when the City of Chicago privatized parking meters, rates were immediately jacked way up, and you now have to feed 28 quarters into the meter to park a car in the Loop for two hours. In exchange for a 75-year lease, the city got $1.2 billion to help plug its budget holes.

$1.2 billion sounds great in the short term.  But what about sustained revenue?  Did Chicago jump for short-term gain and lose long-term revenue in the process?  According to Marin, “parking tickets reap six, seven, even eight times more than what meters bring in.”  If no one parks, then there are no tickets.

The whole purpose of parking meters was as an urban planning tool, used to generate turnover so businesses could see a steady stream of customers who park for a short time, shop and leave, opening spaces for more shoppers.

And there’s the rub: parking meters exist now only to generate revenue.  They’re punishment for shopping.

There must be an army in Chicago writing tickets now.  A friend’s son pulled into a spot last week, but didn’t have any tickets.  He ran into a dry cleaning store for change to feed the meter.  Coming from the store just a few moments later, parking meter enforcement had already found his vehicle.  Now he’s paying dearly for that spot.

Want to go shopping?  Stay in the ‘Burbs.  Better yet, head to the South Suburbs.  The best deals are in the south.  Discover the affordable housing in Park Forest and have dinner at Bixby’s.  Visit Crete for antiques.  Head to Matteson to J.C. Penny’s or any number of other stores.

You can even park for free.

Deny Richie Daley and the LAZ Parking cabal their 30 pieces of silver.