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Drivers who paid ‘unfair’ parking tickets will get vouchers

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Updated: April 27, 2014 6:33AM

Drivers who paid “unfair” parking tickets at 12 privately owned Chicago parking lots will get vouchers, and the New York-based company that claimed customers owed them more than $275,000 in violations has paid the city $45,000 in a settlement, following an investigation sparked by the Sun-Times.

A city Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection deceptive parking investigation revealed ABM Parking Services issued 11,000 tickets unfairly to customers at 12 of the company’s 55 lots. ABM claimed it was owed $275,073.44 from tickets the company issued, the city said.

The city launched the investigation in October 2012 after the Sun-Times inquired and provided scans of tickets issued at a River North ABM lot for various reasons: broken machine, blocking vehicles, expired tickets and no payment.

Between October 2012 and December 2012, city inspectors fanned out to 55 locations. The city says a dozen stand-alone outdoor parking lots were issuing tickets. The investigation revealed customers had tickets placed on their windshields asking them to pay a fine for violating parking guidelines that weren’t clear to customers. The company even printed the customers’ license plates on the tickets.

Tickets were placed on dashboards in yellow envelopes that read, “System Parking,” which advised drivers to visit to pay. No customers, however, were sent to collections for not paying, according to the investigation.

The city reached a settlement with ABM on March 17 and on Tuesday announced the company had paid a $45,000 settlement, which will be used for a “People Plaza” located in an “underserved neighborhood.” The plaza program was introduced last year by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and seeks to bid out plazas to public and private partners who will then set up cultural offerings.

Any ABM customer who paid a ticket between Jan. 15, 2012, and Jan. 15, 2014, will get two parking vouchers — each valid for 12 hours — for each violation they paid.

ABM also must discontinue the practice of “unfair ticketing” and has 90 days — which began March 17 — to change its sales receipts to show a breakout of the taxes charged, and post new signs at all parking locations indicating any additional fees or charges, the department said.

The sticking point in the ABM investigation was that the company could not issue parking tickets without properly posting its regulations.

In a statement, ABM denies violations of the Municipal Code of Chicago but is pleased to have resolved the matter amicably: “We look forward to working cooperatively with the City of Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs to achieve our mutually shared goals moving forward.”

One customer who paid a $30 violation online said a voucher will do her no good. Patti Piasecki now lives in Indianapolis. She parked at the River North Kinzie lot infrequently when she worked as a furniture designer in Chicago, and stopped after receiving multiple tickets. She was issued a ticket for no payment when an automated machine broke down. The fee that day was $10, but the ticket was for $30. And she paid it.

“I think they should have been more proactive earlier about that, instead of a parking voucher,” Piasecki said. “I would have just liked to have my ticket repaid, the exact amount. I don’t care about a voucher — especially since I no longer live there.”


Twitter: @TinaSfon

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