App anxiety and red-light rage

Opinion: Columns

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By Alan Brouilette

Those of you who avoid small-town columnist clichés can turn the page because I am going to use this soapbox to complain about parking tickets for the next 582 words. I got one a couple of weeks ago because — like an idiot — I tried to pay for parking using the "Park Chicago" app instead of money. This was my second foray into using the Park Chicago app. The first go-round was maybe four years ago when I tried the app twice, got two tickets, and deleted it in a fit of rage. 

I hoped they had gotten better about it and gave it another swing when I was in Pilsen recently. I downloaded it, put in a bunch of seemingly-unnecessary information, plus a credit card number — a combination of data I'd honestly rather not entrust to the city of Chicago — and "bought" two hours.  

When I returned 90 minutes later to the inevitable ticket, I first examined the thing to see if I had been ticketed for some other violation. Loading Zone or Too Close to a Hydrant or Failure to Bring the Meter-Person a Taco or something. 

I had paid the parking. What I had not done was type my license plate into my phone correctly. I had fat-fingered "MLE 608" into "MLE 698". A simple error, easily corrected with a telephone call, right? Not even the city of Chicago would pretend they were owed the $50 (!) they intended to extort for the "offense" of parking outside a restaurant in which I intended to spend money, right? I'd let them know about the typo, we'd have a good laugh, and they'd fix it with a keystroke. Right? 

Hahaha. Get real. Of course they're demanding the money. 

While I'm venting on the subject: Red-light cameras. We have these hideous Nazi totalitarian fund-raisers at Harlem and Lake now, which has added quite a lot of rerouting to my driving. I stopped going to the Costco in North Riverside because of the ones at Harlem & Cermak, but that was fairly easy. Harlem and Lake is the best route to my mom and to the gym, and I am unhappy with the extra effort. Why no one is running for office on a platform of I'll Take Down the Red-Light Cameras is beyond me. They must be [200-word rant about politicians and bribery and corruption deleted by Forest Park Review Legal Team].

In order to contest a parking ticket in the city, you have to go to a (confusing, crowded, poorly-designed) website, enter your ticket number, and press a button that says "Contest This Ticket". I was hesitant to do this, as I assumed that I would press the button and instantly receive a message reading, "Your Appeal Has Been Denied. Ticket + Court Costs: $1,050. Pay On Next Page." 

The alternative, though, was to have this experience in person, so I tried it. They've now been reviewing "The Case Of The License Plate Typo" for three weeks. I don't know if the governor is involved yet but I assume we'll incorporate him eventually. 

Hopefully before I go to the chair.

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