Mike Brockway of the Expired Meter has a story on DNAinfo today breaking the news that non-government workers have been issuing parking tickets since 2010. Brockway reports that people who work for LAZ Parking — hired by Chicago Parking Meters, the city’s private concessionaire — and not for the city have been enforcing parking regulations.
Some passages in the article read like this should be considered a scandal (the private workers have been “quietly issuing hundreds of thousands of tickets”), but the LAZ workers are not issuing tickets surreptitiously. They wear uniforms, carry equipment, and do the same job as those who work for the Department of Finance.
What’s happening is pretty ordinary: Some people continue to park beyond their purchased time, or don’t purchase time at all, LAZ workers are writing them tickets, and the city is collecting the fines. This was the arrangement spelled out in the parking meter contract. (There are a lot of things wrong with the parking meter deal — the city never should have given away control of its metered parking, especially not for a short-term budget gimmick — but enforcement of the rules isn’t one of them.)
Maybe there are some interesting differences between the private enforcement agents and the city-employed agents. Is one type of enforcement agent more efficient than the other, and thus a better value to city taxpayers? If so, it would make sense to assign that group a larger share of the citation load. If each private enforcement worker issues more tickets per day than city employees, or vice versa, that indicates that parking enforcement could be improved. And more thorough parking enforcement will encourage more turnover, reduce traffic caused by people cruising for spaces, and allow more people to park at and patronize businesses.
We need more information to judge the impact of private enforcement agents, and I’d like to see Brockway go further with the data without implying that more parking enforcement is a bad thing.