It Doesn’t Matter Who Issues Parking Tickets as Long as They Do It Well

Photo: Joseph Dennis

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.

  • This is the same thing people complain about any time they receive a fine. Receiving an expensive parking ticket isn’t fun, but it is avoidable. What they should be doing is putting these parking people in front of Starbucks every morning to nab the people who park in the bus stop to just “run in for a second.”

    There is something to be said about hiring a private company (profit-seeking) to enforce the meters, because there’s an incentive to punish more people. It brings to mind the much, much worse example of for-profit prisons. There suddenly becomes an incentive to punish people. But the city turned over its meters to a private company and this was part of the contract.

  • forensicgarlic

    I’d be interested in ticketing accuracy / overturned in court rates of the different classes too.

  • CL

    Yes, that’s the real question — if the private ticket writers are held accountable and do their jobs just like the regular enforcers, then okay. The question is whether the $$ incentives lead to worse behavior.

    The way I see it, LAZ has two financial incentives: getting more turnover, which means more people paying for parking, and encouraging people to pay for a longer period of time (because they learn that if they underestimate how long they’re going to be by a few minutes, they get a ticket — so they might start overestimating and paying more to LAZ).

    If the LAZ employees write a lot of bogus tickets, it’s costing the city resources as people take them to parking court (but maybe the city doesn’t care since a lot of people just pay the tickets, resulting in more revenue), but it doesn’t affect LAZ. So the question is whether the private enforcers have accountability / incentives to get it right. Privatizing usually means bad things for residents, but it’s not the case 100% of the time — we don’t have enough information about this to say.

  • jon

    Are the private writers only writing meter tickets or any kind of violation?

  • SP_Disqus

    The DNAinfo article says they only ticket for meter violations.

  • oooBooo

    Is it more progressive to have government employees or corporate contractors? I guess it just depends on what the intersecting agendas are.

    The real question that should be asked is this just another step towards corporations becoming the government or just yet another deal to maximize collections from the populace by their long standing partnership?

  • kastigar

    The city should be using them to issue tickets for any parking violation. There’s no need to use a trained law enforcement officer to issue mundane parking tickets. I’m sure these enforcement people are far less expensive than hiring police officers.

    In addition to raising badly needed revenue the tickets would go a long way to discourage parking by fire hydrants, across pedestrian crosswalks and in other areas prohibited. This needs to be done on the side streets and residential streets as well as the main streets.

  • rohmen

    I don’t disagree with the idea of privatizing ticket writers in general, but the private ticket writers at issue here are provided by LAZ–at (apparently) no cost to the City as part of the deal–in order to increase compliance and make the private company more money. Neither LAZ nor the company that owns the meter and pays for the extra meter enforcement has any incentive to write tickets for non-meter related parking violations.

    Sure, the City could hire its own private company (or pay LAZ) to also enforce other parking violation issues, but judging by various unions’ and politicians’ reactions to the idea of privatizing City recycling collection, I would imagine privatizing City-provided and paid for parking enforcement officers isn’t going to happen without a serious fight.

  • The private writers are only writing tickets for parking beyond the paid duration, parking beyond the limit for that block, and not paying at all.

  • I want to clarify the relationship among the City, CPM, and LAZ.

    The City of Chicago issued a concession to Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, a company created solely for leasing the parking meters from the city. Its address when first registered with the Illinois Secretary of State was the same office as Morgan Stanley in New York City. It’s listed as being a “member type” company, three of which are Morgan Stanley businesses and the fourth is Deeside Investments, headquartered in D.C. and owning 49%.

    CPM has hired LAZ Parking, a nationwide parking management company, to actually operate the concession, repair meters, enforce meter violations.

  • sandman

    I don’t mind the parking “enforcement” people, but unlike the police, they dont leave any trace to the citizen receiving a ticket, who wrote it and what office location they are from. Why is this?????? Supossedly the tickets are to be backed up with a photo, right? WELL, some parking enforcement personnel are issuing tickets and not placing ticket on the offending car, yet alone, not taking a photo. When you do get the surprise notification from the city, it’s almost too late to contest…..so you are forced to pay the fine before it doubles. Nice racket. and besides witnessing that, I’ve seen cars drive by and they punch in the plate and wala…..you have just been screwed. Correct me if I’m wrong, but their job duty is PARKING. If they wanna issue tickets to motorist, then be the police, stop the offender with your squadcar, take the license, and write a citation. these phantom tickets must stop and they should be held accountable like everyone else. BUT THAT’S TOO MUCH LIKE RIGHT. I believe the city wants the money no matter how it gets it.

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