CITY HALL — The city is seeking to shift the onus of paying for loading zones Downtown from merchants to delivery drivers, and aldermen see promise in expanding it to other commercial areas like Lincoln Park and Old Town.
During City Council 2017 budget hearings this week, Chief Financial Officer Carole Brown laid out a pilot program to raise up to $18 million by shifting loading zones from an annual fee paid by the merchant to special metered parking for pickups and deliveries charging up to $14 an hour in "user-paid" loading zones. Drivers would pay through a phone app or separate parking boxes similar to metered spots.
"It will generate more revenue," Brown said.
Because these are loading zones and not regular metered spaces, the city would pocket that revenue directly and not share it with LAZ Parking, the firm created to administer the city's notorious parking-meter deal.
Brown touted it as a money-raiser, but Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said it should also ease congestion.
"We're going to see much more heavy turnover," Reilly said.
"We're incentivizing them to move," Brown agreed.
Reilly, however, said higher fines might be necessary to compel enforcement, and he pointed to delivery trucks he's seen with stacks of parking tickets on the dashboard.
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), whose ward extends into Old Town, said many delivery firms appear to write those tickets off as "the cost of doing business."
"The primary goal needs to stay on enforcement and compliance," Hopkins said. "This won't work unless we have adequate enforcement."
The pilot program begins in the Loop and the Central Business District, which basically extends north to Division Street, west to Halsted Street and south to Roosevelt Road, but Hopkins said it could benefit Old Town, Lincoln Park and other commercial areas, "although the farther you get out of the city center, the less of an issue commercial loading zones are."
"It is a very, very interesting idea," said Lincoln Park Ald. Michele Smith (43rd). "If it seems as though it is as good an idea as it appears, depending on the pilot, I would love to adopt them in my ward."
Hopkins, however, said his ultimate goal is to use the program to move toward automated, video-based enforcement of loading zones, rush-hour no-parking zones and other areas such as bike lanes.
"It has to work in order for people to accept it," Hopkins said, but the incentive is there, especially on bike lanes and rush-hour traffic lanes.
"It only takes one person to violate that parking ban and it screws it all up," Hopkins said. "We get $100 [from a ticket], but we had a ruined rush hour that morning. I'll take a good rush hour and no $100 any day. It's not a good trade-off. You need enforcement that actually serves to raise compliance."
"Enforcement has always been spotty," Smith agreed. "There are a lot of cars in those zones."
Loading zones in the Central Business District cost from $500-$4,500, depending on the size, while outside that district costs begin at $110 and rise to just over $4,000.
The pilot program for user-paid loading zones is part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2017 budget proposal currently under consideration by the City Council.