Chicago's parking meter system raked in $134.2 million last year, putting private investors on pace to recoup their entire $1.16 billion investment by 2021 with 62 years to go in the lease, the latest annual audit shows.
Four underground, city-owned parking garages took in $34 million in 2017, while the privatized Chicago Skyway generated $99.9 million in cash, separate audits of those assets show.
Not a penny of those revenues, once a mainstay for city government, went to ease the tax increases imposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to solve the city's $36 billion pension crisis.
That's because all three of those assets were unloaded by former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who used the money to avoid raising property taxes while city employee pension funds sunk deeper in the hole.
Of the three deals, the 2008 parking meter deal has been the biggest political nightmare for Emanuel, who inherited it, and for Chicago aldermen who granted lightning-fast approval of the deal.
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Steep rate increases that forced drivers to stuff their pockets with quarters would have been bad enough. Rates downtown, for example, increased from $3 an hour in 2008 to $6.50 an hour in 2013.