Chicago Wants To Keep The Change, Eliminate Parking Meter "Piggybacking"

Ah, that most delightful of surprises: The parking meter with time already on it. If the City of Chicago has its way, (and let’s face it, they usually do) the gift of a partially full parking meter will a thing of the past.

They’re testing a new “coinless” parking meter system that would erase (not refund) any extra time left on a parking meter so the next person couldn’t “piggyback.”

The city sees this as “lost revenue.”

“We call it ‘piggybacking at the meter,'” said Bea Reyna-Hickey, the city’s revenue director, referring to drivers who benefit from the leftover parking time purchased by the motorists who used the spaces before them.

“Think of the countless thousands of dollars lost” every year at the city’s approximately 33,000 parking meters, she said.

Thousands of dollars lost because they couldn’t charge people twice for the same amount of time? The city should hush up and go sell another highway or bulldoze an airport in the middle of that night. That’s always fun.

ParkMagic? Not so much [Chicago Tribune via Wise Bread]


Edit Your Comment

  1. homerjay says:

    So who do I call to get my refund for time unused?

  2. MalcoveMagnesia says:

    Smells like a lawsuit bait to me.

    If a parking department gets equipment that allows them to accurately meter the time a citizen’s car is in (or rents) a parking spot, then the citizen should be due a refund for the time unused.

    Governments are supposed to work for citizens, not the other way around.

  3. humphrmi says:

    First, let me say this is already very prevalent in the loop. Near every street parking area is a pay box, it takes bills and CC’s (and maybe coins, although I never really noticed) and spits out a ticket printed with the start time and the amount of time you pay for. You put that ticket on your dash. When you drive off, whatever extra you paid for goes with you on your dash. I suppose this system is just now making it’s way out of downtown, but it’s basically been around for years.

    You could, conceivably, get around this by somehow giving your ticket to someone pulling in to your spot.

    But agreed on all points, it sucks. But then again considering that parking garages in the loop charge $20 to $27 per day (and anything over ~30 minutes constitutes a “day”) the street parking is still a bargain when you can find it.

  4. Sam says:

    It’s not lost revenue. It’s unexploited revenue.

  5. LaReine says:

    They’ve had this for a while in Miami… You go and pay a parking machine which dispenses a ticket. The ticket says the date very large and the time which it expires. Lazy meter men/women usually just check for the ticket and don’t bother checking the time. I find I have less tickets because of it.

  6. BuddyHinton says:

    Logic as only a government worker could create. Apologies in advance.

  7. kamikasee says:

    I live in Pittsburgh, and all the metered lots and new stretches of metered street parking use the printed ticket method described by humphrmi above. Some people leave their tickets with time left on them on top of the pay box for other people to use — it’s not as good as getting a meter with time on it (because you can’t add time to what’s on the ticket without coming back when the ticket expires), but it’s great if you just need to do one quick errand.

  8. morganlh85 says:

    Cheap bastards!

  9. RumorsDaily says:

    Hey, I totally thought you stole my FAIL photo, but yours was different. Good on you.



  10. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of. SOMEONE paid for that time on the meter, and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if someone else parks there AFTER they’ve left.

    By the way, where the hell do you get an hour per quarter? Most places give 15 minutes a quarter.

  11. LiC says:

    @IRSistherootofallevil: Ditto that. It’s half an hour per quarter in some places out here, but most places have gotten rid of meters because folks go elsewhere because they’re a hassle.

  12. Anonymous says:

    i’m not sure this is entirely new. when i was in san jose this summer, we parked a few blocks away from the aquarium on a side street. something i noticed when we were leaving was that the meter had a notice about erasing the time left on the meter if it sensed movement. i don’t know if this is exactly the same kind of deal or i was misreading it, but if it is this idea is already in practice.

  13. MercuryPDX says:

    @humphrmi: We have the same SmartMeter kiosk system in Portland and you have to be careful where you park next. The stickers are marked with the hours of the originating machine. Parking in a one hour spot using the leftovers of a three hour sticker can get you a fine if the meter maid is feeling particularly testy.

    They also use those new tablet/printers to write out the tickets, so it’s virtually impossible to claim they must have wrote the license number wrong, or any other “ticket is illegible” kind of defenses.

  14. impudence says:

    Interestingly it seems none of the commenters above read the linked article. The article states that rather than metering the space they will be metering the car. Therefore, if you buy an hour of time and leave after half an hour you can take your remaining half hour with you to the next spot and some lucky chump who comes after you doesn’t get to mooch of your excess time.

  15. humorbot says:

    Here in LA, “piggybacking” is technically illegal and you can be cited for it, if the meter-folk somehow manage to catch you.

    The digital, coinless and/or otherwise enhancified meters will “solve” this egregious pilfering of city funds. Mark my words, the future will see meters that radio parking enforcement officers in the vicinity the second your time ticks over to zero.

  16. MercuryPDX says:

    Forgot to add: The meter will only charge you for the maximum time you need it and won’t work when it’s not supposed to. For example, if you park at a 3-hour machine at 5pm, the machine won’t charge you for 3 hours, it cuts off at 2. After 7PM and on Holidays the machines will not take money.

  17. MercuryPDX says:

    @impudence: True, but what if you paid for an hour, and only used a half hour or 15 minutes? If you’re done parking for the day you can’t exactly call back for a refund.

    The in-car device mentioned in the article can be used to exploit the time limits. You just call in before your time is up and add more, leaving your car parked in the same spot all day.

  18. Chongo says:

    Maybe with this increase in revenue they can fun the CTA so they don’t cut off bus service (closing down all MONTROSE and DAMEN buses? COME ON!)

  19. wildfire991 says:

    What is government going to do when they get and spend every penny available? “Do your part, the government needs your kidney”?

    I suppose the less tech-savvy idea of just charging a nickel more for 20 minutes wasn’t a hit.

  20. moorie679 says:

    well maybe we should think about selling air to people….. thats billions of lost revenue. Just imagine, 1$ for 1 breath…..

    This is starting to get retarded real fast……..

  21. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    What about cars without the magic device that you get to pay for?
    How wonderful! But parking in Chicago is akin to being mugged, albeit ‘legally.’
    I had to meet someone years back and parked in a garage close to where I thought we were staying, then found out I was a few miles off, so I had to move to another parking establishment, and it cost (my company) $10 for my car to sit in that garage for all of 28 minutes, including the 4 minutes each way I spent driving up and up and up and up and up and then down and down…
    Other big cities are not much better, though. Mass transit is the way to go, park outside the city and ride in.

  22. squikysquiken says:

    Downtown chicago already uses the ticket dispenser machines instead of meters so the time drives away with you when you leave. That new system is like a wireless electronic ticket.

    The advantages to the city are: they don’t need to maintain more pay stations and less meter use means lower collection costs.

    The advantages to the user are: they don’t need money and they can extend parking time without going to their car and they can use the remaining time in another spot.

    Now; I think the city is delusional that it will make them more money. In the loop, the pay stations already prevent piggybacking. Outside the loop, I can count on one hand how many times I managed to get a meter with time on it in the last 4 years.

  23. aikoto says:

    Those scum sucking weasels.. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with weasels so maybe they can be scum sucking scum.

  24. beavis88 says:

    And we try to claim the commies and the terrorists are bad.

  25. Sam says:


    Touché. Incomplete summary by Consumerist.

  26. PinkBox says:

    What do they expect you to do?

    If you need to go somewhere for about ten minutes, and notice the meter you parked beside has thirty minutes remaining, do they really expect you to put more money in?

  27. Jean Naimard says:

    Must be the same system being deployed since the last few years in Montréal ([])

    Rejoice: those pay stations are powered by Linux! So you can be sure no money ever goes to Microsoft!!!

  28. hapless says:


    Cities don’t want you to add time to the meter. Ever. The whole point of metered parking is to provide parking at a below-market rate *for a limited time*.

    In some areas, it’s *illegal* to refill meters.

  29. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    When I was growing up in the ’80s in a small Midwestern town, you would actually put a small stack of quarters on top of the meter. If the cop came around and you were out of time, he would just take one of the quarters and put it in the meter for you.

    This is not just a “government” activity. Parking tickets, like tolls, speeding tickets, bank fees, credit card surcharges, and even college fees (not tuition) used to be viewed upon as a way to pay for expenses incurred.

    Now these fees are looked upon as a way to actually increase revenue and even as profit centers. So instead of looking to collect $100,000 in parking tickets to help pay for the cost of 2 cops on the beat, cities look to collect $500,000 so they can take the extra and help balance the budget.

    Therefore, you have all these fancy games now which have a sole purpose of not improving citizen or customer experience but instead to extract as much $$ as possible from people.

  30. Anonymous says:

    As a previous poster noted, the timed ticket is being used in Miami now. They also have a minimum amount you can purchase. I forget what it is, but it is far more than you need.
    One interesting result is that there are unsavory charaters hanging around municipal parking lots. They ask everyone leaving to give them their tickets, which they then try to sell to arriving cars. Once, at Bayside, I was leaving and I gave my ticket (with more than an hour left on it) to a couple getting out of their car. They thanked me and left. Then this thug who was hanging around the ticket machine came over and told me he would kill me if I ever did that again at “his” lot.

    Gotta love Miami. Everyone should live in a foreign country once in their lives.

  31. satoru says:

    In certain parts of Boston they have parking kiosks where you have to purchase a ticket for up to 2 hours and stick it on your side window. Toronto has also had such a system for many years.

    In Montreal it’s even worse! Each spot is actually labeled. So when you buy the ticket you also have to give it the label of the spot you are parking in. The damn thing is also $3 an hour! Even NYC isn’t that bad. Damn Frenchies must need the money to keep putting up those French only signs.

  32. Saboth says:

    Wow, that is completely ignorant. Time bought is time bought, regardless of who uses it. Glad I don’t live in a big city.

  33. anonymouscoworker says:

    They’ve had this in the tourist section of Baltimore for a couple of years now. It’s only a problem if you’re the type of person who either a) can’t find a place to park without a meter or b) don’t take public transit into the city or c) don’t estimate well how much time they’re going to use.

    And really, people are getting into a tizzy about an extra 50 cents that they might not use?

  34. says:

    That’s one of my best sources of good karma, leaving a chunk of minutes on the parking meter for the next parker to use…

    Oh well, now I can blame Chicago if I am reincarnated as a lowly garden slug.

  35. ancientsociety says:

    “Governments are supposed to work for citizens, not the other way around.”

    Obviously you don’t live in Chicago, or IL for that matter. If you did, you’d know our motto is:

    “Citizens are supposed to work for their bloated, inefficient gov’t, not the other way around.”

  36. full.tang.halo says:

    Anyone else find this very RIAA-ish, we want to sell you the same thing over and over and over again, we’re “losing” revenue, you cant lose something you were never entitled to….

  37. Jeff_McAwesome says:

    @squikysquiken: Odd. I just got a meter in Chicago with 15 minutes on it yesterday, although I was nowhere near downtown.

    I wouldn’t mind this so much if they allowed you to put a nickel or a dime in the meter and just put on 10 or 15 minutes. But they force you to put in a quarter and buy a half hour or an hour.

    @ancientsociety: Are you ready for the 2% sales tax increase that Cook county wants? 11.25% Woo!

  38. humphrmi says:

    @full.tang.halo: First, I agree that this sucks. But the RIAA parallel fails. The only valid parallel to music would be: you purchase a song, listen to 80% of it, and then realize you have better things to do or have heard all you need to hear and want to give the remaining 20% to the next person who wants to hear the song.

    It doesn’t work.

  39. nick_r says:

    The next technological advance, I suppose, will be parking meters that never accept money of any kind and automatically generate a $60 parking ticket as soon as you enter the space.

    I mean, shit, think of the millions of dollars in lost revenue until we can implement THAT!

  40. ancientsociety says:

    @Jeff_McAwesome: Don’t forget the $4 monthly tax per phone, another real estate taxe hike, the water bottle tax, etc…..I LOVE living in a city run by crooks.

  41. Anonymous says:

    The city is incredibly stupid and regularly faces budget crises. They always blame stupid ‘lost revenue’.
    If I pay for an hour, but leave in ten minutes and another person parks there for 40 minutes, they haven’t lost any revenue. I still paid for the time.
    Chicago fiscal policy makes no sense. They rape people on cigarette taxes, while making it harder to continue smoking. They rape people on property taxes, then are shocked (SHOCKED!) when people sell their homes and move to the suburbs. They rape people on sales tax, then are dumbfounded when more and more people drive outside the city to save the money (it’s 8% in the subs and 10% in the city – on a $2000 plasma, that’s $160 in taxes vs. $200 in taxes – worth the trip).
    The CTA is in shambles, so they announce plans to kill off some of the busiest bus routes (where people cram into busses when they show up after waiting 30-45 minutes) as a way to curb costs, not considering the fact that running MORE busses on busier routes would generate more revenue.
    This is what happens when politicians hire their own family members or political friends (or pass their positions onto their kids) instead of hiring professionals with experience.
    Todd Stroger is unqualified to run Cook County. His dad (who used to run Cook County)had a stroke, and now Todd runs the country.
    Ron Huberman never worked a day in his life in the transportation business, and now he runs the CTA.
    Chicago is going down the toilet, and fast.

  42. Anonymous says:

    I usually stick my unused ticket on the kiosk if there’s enough time for someone else to benefit from.
    The other day, I was going for a beer after work (in Seattle) in a part of town with a lot of new development. We also have the meters with the ticket printers, which I have actually found to be ok. It was 5:45, so I walked up to the meter to throw a quarter in, to carry me to 6:00 when they stop running. Imagine my suprise when the bloodsucking new machines, which are different from the standard meters we’ve become accustomed to, told me that I had to purchase a mininum of one hour to park there. Which means $1.50 to park for less than 15 minutes.
    I quietly told the meter and the city to f**k themselves and went inside and enjoyed my delicious German beer.

  43. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @Jeff_McAwesome: 11.25% Wow I though L.A. had the market on shaking you down for cash. Wow its sad the 8.75% we pay almost seems ok now…

    L.A. has this magical revenue generating machine where they post no parking signs for 2 hours once a week foe “street cleaning”…I have never seen them actually clean anything. Usually the street is dirtier after they go by. And of course a little spandex shorts wearing meter fairy rolls around right behind them to leave you a $60 ticket because the cleaner couldn’t drive over your spot and leave a little water to “clean” the street.

  44. humphrmi says:

    @fejjnagaf: Yet Chicagoans continue to re-elect Daley by huge margins every election year. At least Peraica took on Stroger and came close. Peraica won by 62% in the county suburbs outside of Chicago, but Stroger won by 69% in the city. So it’s pretty clear who’s electing the morons and who’s trying to change that.

  45. toddkravos says:

    0.25 for 30 mins?
    Shit! Come to Cleveland, 1.50 = 1 hour.

  46. fejjnagaf says:

    I couldn’t agree more with you.
    It isn’t that Daley is a failure, it’s that the ‘chicago way’ is corruption and nepotism.
    Stroger squeaked by on name recognition (and, some would say, the black vote) and is now busy at work screwing up all of cook county.
    While Daley is off trying to court the Olympic committee, the city is trying to plod through a budget crisis.
    Instead of replanting all the trees and bushes in the daley center, etc., it would be nice if, for a change, they gave up a little beauty refreshening to actually, you know, balance the budget. Taxes go up, people move away, businesses move away, shoppers go outside of city limits, and revenue continues to decrease while expenses continue to rise.
    Chicago politics is completely screwed up and corruption is rampant. It’s sad, really.
    City residents complain about taxes, then demand more services as the city declares itself a sanctuary city and spends millions in healthcare alone, each year, treating illegal immigrants.
    Just last year, during the illegal immigrant parade, there were hundreds of cops being paid time and a half to ‘protect’ the protesters and funnel them through the financial districts….
    Who pays? people who aren’t quite sick of it enough to move the hell out of the city yet.
    But they will. They always do. Housing in Chicago experienced a boom until recently. When new home owners start getting tax bills, they will sell and move to the burbs. When apartment rents increase to cover the additional taxes levied against building owners, people will rethink their living arrangements.
    The city will suffer.

  47. fejjnagaf says:

    In part of Chicago, 25 cents buys you 15 minutes.

  48. Lynn12 says:

    So now not only are they charging us to park on the streets that our tax dollars paid for and maintain, but now they want to charge two people for the same service.

    Typical goverment thinking, if there is a nickel to steal from the public, steal it and add another for good measure.

  49. waxigloo says:

    The UK uses this ticket system and when I was there, it was common to see a homeless guy ask for your ticket when you were leaving your spot. He would then attempt to sell that ticket to a person pulling in, presumably for a discount.

    I think the gov’t attempt to subvert this practice by having new machines that had you enter the last 3 digits of your license plate number so that it could be printed on the ticket. The chances of someone pulling in with the same digits within the time left on the meter are pretty slim (1/1000).

  50. dlab says:

    Totally lawsuit bait.

    Also, if the city is really moving to a “coinless” system, the paradigm changes… why would you pay up-front for time that you may or may not use? I assume the system would use electronic transactions, therefore there is no sensible reason why the transaction should not happen at the end of your stay in the parking space, and no reason why you should not be charged the exact amount for the time that you spent.

    That is, assuming the city of Chicago still does things democratically…

  51. humphrmi says:

    @dlab: LOL

  52. zyodei says:

    I don’t know how they can honestly call it “lost revenue,” when it is time that a citizen of the city has already paid for. It’s double dipping is what it is.

    The whole police system in Chicago is set up to rob the car owning citizens of the city. My girlfriend got a $120 city sticker ticket on her car that had a *clearly* visible current city sticker. When she balked at paying it and screwed out of her day in court, she ended up with a $240 fine – all for a crime which was completely illegitamite, as the cop didn’t even take the care to see if she actually did have the damn sticker.

    Screw the city of Chicago. That’s why I ride a bike, because who wants to give money to those bandits?

  53. nardo218 says:

    Did you see the clip? You have to call a number and use the keypad to tell how many hours you want. And the douche in the video has the gall to call THAT more convenient.

  54. grrrarrrg says:


    don’t get me started about LA. in particular.. San Marino/Pasadena/Arcadia

    i got my car ticket (and to add insult to injury) towed because i parked in the street overnight. never mind the fact that the sign was obstructed with overgrown vegetation…

    apparently you’re not allowed to park your car at night… but during the daytime, no problem!

  55. sibertater says:

    As if parking isn’t expensive enough in Chicago…Jeebus.

  56. sibertater says:


    It’s only 20 minutes for twenty-five cents in Indianapolis.