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San Francisco may have the most technologically nifty new parking system in the U.S., but Chicago wins big points for the mercenary genius of their approach: the city expects to raise over a billion dollars by auctioning a 50-year concession on their entire parking system.
Private vendors are willing to pay so much for the right to manage the city’s 36,000 parking spaces because they know the real estate is presently underpriced. The winning bidder will be required to install “state-of-the-art parking meters that monitor parking space availability and adjust rates to ensure an open space on every block.” The new system should reduce congestion, lower greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, and generally make the city more livable. It will also mint a good deal of cash for both the vendor and the city government.
Such public-private partnerships can be controversial. Some object to the very idea of public goods in private hands. Others worry that corporations suffer from a lack of accountability to voters.
Which, in some ways, is the point. Drivers are a powerful voting bloc, and city officials have generally been unwilling to cross them. Particularly if some of that billion-dollar windfall finds its way to public transit projects, the deal will likely work out well for Chicagoans.
Originally posted at Worldchanging.