Lots of spaces available

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By JEAN LOTUS

CTA raised its commuter parking rates across the board in November, and in Forest Park at the Blue Line Terminus, 711 S. Desplaines Ave., the result is lopsided parking lots - some filled to capacity and others almost empty.

Friday, the CTA board announced they were lowering prices in eight city lots to reflect customer demand, but Forest Park's CTA lots were not on the list.

River Forester John Carr parked for 10 years at the CTA's "overflow" lot, in the far northwest corner of CTA property, at the elbow of Van Buren Street across from The Residences at the Grove. The lot is owned by CTA and managed by a Massachusetts company, Central Parking Systems (CPS) Chicago Parking LLC.

"There used to be about 100 cars there every day and now maybe 10 cars park there," said Carr. "There used to be a machine steel box. You'd fold up your money and stick it in."

Lot manager and CPS employee Ivan Matic said the CTA raised prices to $5 per day at all of its lots. All but the two Forest Park lots are in the city of Chicago, he said. "The price increase was mandated by the board of [CTA]," he said.

But uniform rates across the system did not work out, judging from Friday's CTA board action. Starting May 1, daily rates will be cut by $2 at Ashland/63rd and 43rd/Garfield, and 54th /Cermak and Kedzie on the Orange Line. CTA will raise the prices by $1 at Halstead, 35th/Archer and Pulaski and the Brown Line Kimball station.

Another source of commuter flight is the switch from daily to monthly parking, according to Carr. Cash boxes were removed and commuters are given RFID tags which are scanned by an employee who drives past.

Prices for parking rose in quick succession from $40 a month, to $60, then $80 then $100, said Carr. "The CTA is always groaning about not having enough money and they raised the prices so high nobody uses the lot. How much money are they losing now?"

Matic said the monthly amount is determined by an average of 20 work days in a month, at $5 each. He said CTA parking customers fill up the south CTA lot, but only a few customers use the overflow lot.

Carr said he's ready to ditch the CTA lot, but the April debit had already been withdrawn from his account, "I'll keep using it this month, but I'm tired of feeding the system. The whole thing doesn't make sense to me. "

Meanwhile, the lot owned by Forest Park costs only $3 per day, said Village Administrator Tim Gillian. "Ever since CTA raised the prices on their parking lot, ours has been completely full," he said.

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