Chicago Wants to Keep the Change
Chicago is testing a coinless parking meter system, The Tribune reported yesterday. You might think that would be great for consumers, eliminating annoyances like the hunt for coins and the need to pay for more time than you actually use.
It's true, drivers would no longer have to plug the meter with change. But apparently the City of Chicago considers parkers' tendancy to overpay more of a feature than a bug. In fact, the city is apparently so consumer-hostile that it plans to keep parkers' overpayments and charge the next customer for the very same time.
Here's how it works: You park at an electronic meter. Just like at a coin meter, you have to estimate how long you'll leave your car there and pay in advance. Even though it would be just as easy for the machines to debit your account for the exact amount of time you parked after you pull out. You pay for 30 minutes, you stay for 20, you leave and the city pockets 10 minutes' worth of unused parking time.
But wait, it gets better -- for the city, not for you. With a coin meter, someone else might come along and use up the time you paid for. But with the new meters, the slate is wiped clean when you leave, and the next customer pays.
In his column, the Trib's Jon Hilkevitch quotes Chicago revenue director Bea Reyna-Hickey as saying the city loses "countless thousands of dollars" due to people "piggybacking at the meter."
Really? You are losing money because you're not able to sell the same parking time to two different customers?
I'd say citizens of Chicago -- and those who just park there -- shouldn't let the city keep the change.