CHICAGO — The fact the parking meters prices officially hiked up on New Year's outraged many drivers. But when forced to reach for extra quarters, Chicagoans reacted with a shrug.
Carolyn Radville, 26, for example, went to refill her meter on North Broadway Ave. in Lakeview with a handful of change and initially balked: "Wow," she said. "I never pay that much."
She put in two quarters and said only received 20 minutes—neighborhood parking now costs $2 an hour, up from $1.75 an hour. But the shock quickly wore off. She put in another quarter.
Radville already pays $150 a month for a parking spot near her Lakeview apartment.
"A couple of quarters is not a big deal," she said.
Chicago has the highest parking meter rates in the nation, with parking downtown costing $6.50 an hour, up from $5.75. Central Business District, which includes the Gold Coast, River North, and South Loop, will go up to $4 from $3.50 by the weekend.
Most neighborhood meters will be changed over gradually in the next few weeks.
Tyler Liese, 25, parked his car to go to Intelligentsia at 3122 N. Broadway Ave. Tuesday and considered the price increases "outrageous." The River East resident already pays $200 a month for a spot near his apartment, and he drives to other neighborhoods in his free time.
"[Privatizing meters] was a bad decision," he said. "Eventually, it's going to be cheaper to park in a lot."
But for now, he doesn't mind the extra cost during his leisure time.
"A few cents here and there isn't a big deal," he said.
The extra change is part of a 75-year privatization contract that Mayor Richard M. Daley put together in December 2008. The city agreed to let rates rise annually for the first five years and with the rate of inflation.
The deal is still controversial today. In October, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Chicago Parking Meters, which leases the rights to the meters, overbilled the city by $22 million.
Many people blame the deal for rising costs, including Jennifer Jones, 28, of suburban Bolingbrook, who drove into downtown Chicago Tuesday. She hates that she must pay more to park, but when push comes to shove, she will swallow the costs rather than avoid city visits, she said.
"You gotta get to where you gotta get to," she said.