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City Overcharging For Thousands Of Expired Meter Parking Tickets

CHICAGO (CBS) -- You park, you pay, you stay too long, you expect to get a ticket. If that happens in most neighborhoods, the ticket is supposed to be cheaper than what you'd pay downtown.

However, the city has issued thousands of parking fines to drivers outside of the city's central business district as if they'd parked downtown.

In the central business district, a ticket for an expired meter will cost you $65. In the rest of the city, the fine is supposed to be $50.

[The city's central business district covers the area within Lake Shore Drive on the east, Roosevelt on the south and Halsted on the west. The northern boundary runs along Chicago between Halsted and LaSalle, then north up LaSalle to Division Street.]

However, self-described data geek Matt Chapman discovered otherwise.

"What I'm finding is that there are many many parking tickets being given outside of downtown as if they were parking downtown," he said.

Chapman studied data from ProPublica, and found from 2013 to 2018 the city issued 30,001 parking tickets outside the central business district at the $65 rate, resulting in a cumulative overcharge of more than $450,000.

For the city of Chicago, overcharging is not new.

"It's been going on basically as long as probably back since 1995 or so, and as far as I know it's still going on," Chapman said. "I don't see any indication that there's any change; that Chicago is doing any research on whether or not this is still going on."

From January 2007 to November 2008, when a parking fine inside the central business district was $50, and outside was $30, the city issued 8,293 tickets outside the central business district at the higher rate. That is a potential overcharge of more than $165,000.

Motorists parking along Solidarity Drive on the Museum Campus received the most tickets during that time. Business district tickets also were issued at O'Hare International Airport, and as far south as the Roseland neighborhood.

"I think it's shameful," Chapman said.

City officials said they were unaware of the discrepancies until Chapman brought it to their attention, but it wasn't until CBS 2 started asking questions that the city committed to do a deep dive of the data to determine how many people they over-billed, and how much those drivers are owed.

The city said it will analyze parking meter ticket data from 2007 until the present "to confirm that expired meter violations issued outside the central business district are consistent with the Chicago Municipal Code."

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