The city that works even when the meters don't
With Chicago facing an epidemic of broken parking meters—in part because people angry over jacked-up rates are busting the machines and in part because the meters are overflowing with quarters—it can be nerve-wracking to park around the city. Will you get a ticket if you park at a bum meter? And if so, how do you get yourself off the hook?
As a recent Trib story notes, "Motorists should be able to park without being ticketed at a meter that says 'FAIL,' according to city officials. 'It's important for motorists to call in malfunctioning meters to 744-PARK or 311,' [Ed Walsh, spokesman for the Chicago Department of Revenue] said. 'This can be used later as a defense to an issued ticket, if need be.' LAZ Parking also lists a number on the meters that have the updated stickers, 877-242-7901."
Armed with this info, I parked at a malfunctioning meter on Clark Street near the Lincoln Park Zoo Saturday morning. Before heading off to see the lions and tigers, I dialed 311. A pleasant woman answered and walked me through the process when I told her I wanted to report a broken meter. She took down the basic location—on Clark just north of Lincoln—along with the meter number I read to her before saying, "You're all set."
Several hours later, I returned to find no ticket, but I was happiest about the fact there's a painless reporting process that enabled me to not worry about getting one while I was out. Another reason to keep 311 on speed dial...