Chicago has nation's most expensive parking meters
Drivers now pay $6.50 per hour to park on downtown streets, more than New York or even Los Angeles.
Chicago's busy Loop district -- a packed, dense, 10-block area where the country's first skyscrapers were built -- now charges drivers $6.50 per hour to park on the street.
The city jacked up meter prices from $5.75 last year; they are now more than double what drivers paid in 2008, according to the Chicago Post-Tribune.
The new price eclipses San Francisco and Los Angeles, both of which recently enacted variable meter pricing that can range from as little as 25 cents per hour to $6, depending on the neighborhood and time of day.
New York City comes in third, at up to $5 in the sardine-packed Greenwich Village area (but only from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.; otherwise, it's $3 per hour in most of Manhattan). Atlanta and Philadelphia cap their meters at $2 per hour. Washington, D.C., does the same and enforces parking until 10 p.m., but only in select, crowded areas such as the National Mall; otherwise, it's 75 cents per hour.
Other big cities, such as Austin, Texas, are surprisingly cheap. It costs just $1 per hour to park in Austin, a boon to the thousands of University of Texas students roaming the restaurants and clubs on Sixth Street. Austin also lets motorcycles and scooters park for free for up to 12 hours and gives drivers parking overnight the option of paying for the next morning, eliminating the need to hurriedly dress and feed the meter. The city is so nice to drivers that it will even throw out overnight parking fines if you forget to pay and can prove you took a bus or a taxi home.
Red Sox fans parking near Boston's Fenway Park enjoy the same $1.25-per-hour rate as any other time, except for those parking over the city limit in the town of Brookline, which charges a whopping $22 at the curbside during all home games and two hours prior.
Of course, as expensive and annoying as it can be to hunt for street parking, no major U.S. city has adopted London-style congestion charges, which would force drivers to pay a toll simply to enter downtown zones. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested the idea, only to have it immediately shot down. Americans, who drive everywhere and any time they want, have their limits.
[Source: Chicago Post-Tribune, various municipalities]
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