1991 Finalist
City of Chicago, Illinois
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

Enforcement of parking regulations in the City of Chicago throughout the 1980s was, for all intents and purposes, nonexistent. Separate offices maintained related databases tracking traffic court records; the county Clerk of the Court kept administrative records while the City of Chicago assumed responsibility for fine collection. Unwilling to engage as part of this fragmented and cumbersome system, police offers were loath to write parking tickets. Drivers were accordingly confident that they would face no consequences, and so would rarely feed parking meters. As a result, the City of Chicago faced a 420 million dollar deficit in collections from a combined 19 million unpaid parking tickets.

In November of 1989, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley initiatied a new program geared at customer service and with the view of parking management as a city resource. His first step was to reform the parking ticket appeals system, which formerly obliged police officers to be present in court at the time of the appeal. The new Parking Enforcement Program (PEP) no longer required officers' in-person presence during appeal, consequently reducing the time previously wasted as law enforcement officers awaited their turn in court.

The second major development under PEP was the institution of a renewed focus on accountability, lost in the fragmentation that characterized the old system. Through PEP, the Mayor centralized oversight of ticketing, meter regulation, and enforcement of fine payment, resulting in increased operational efficiency. He additionally streamlined the appeals system, enabling citizens to contest tickets by mail. Lastly, the adoption of new technologies was encouraged under PEP, including the use of automated ticket writing machines and advanced GPS capabilities, resulting in further time and cost savings.

Chicago's parking enforcement overhaul has resulted in steadily increasing compliance. In 1989, approximately 10 percent of parking tickets were paid. For each measured year following, the rate of compliance increased approximately one percentage point for each week of program operation. Fourteen percent of the unpaid ticket backlog from the former system has also been paid since PEP's inception. Meter revenue, which PEP considers one of the most significant indicators of enforcement compliance has also risen from 6 million dollars in 1989 to 8.4 million dollars in 1990.