Chicago set to drive up fee on ‘booted’ vehicles

Chicago set to drive up fee on ‘booted’ vehicles

City Council gave private ‘booting’ companies the blessing to charge Chicagoans more to remove the device from vehicles.

Companies tasked with applying disciplinary “boots” to illegally parked cars were given the go-ahead to hike the fee drivers must pay to remove the device from their vehicle.

On Jan. 10, Chicago City Council’s License Committee approved a 21.4 percent increase to the amount private booting companies can charge to disable such boots, spiking the maximum removal fee to $170 up from $140 per vehicle, according to the Chicago Tribune.

In exchange for the removal fee hike, the policy heightens licensing costs and regulations for private booting companies.

The ordinance was advanced by Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno, 1st Ward, his second attempt in a year to impose an increase in removal fees on private boots. In May, when Moreno first introduced the measure, it failed to generate sufficient favor among fellow policymakers, “[stalling] amid concerns from some aldermen about whether the hike was needed,” according to the Tribune. There was no opposition to the proposal’s second introduction, however.

“Booting,” the disciplinary practice of immobilizing a vehicle by affixing a mechanical device to its wheel, is largely a public operation. But private booting companies are permitted to conduct business in private lots in more than half of Chicago’s 50 wards. The fees for private boot removal are slightly higher than the cost of removing a city boot, which is typically applied due to unpaid tickets.

Some aldermen have championed booting as a more consumer-friendly alternative to towing, underscoring the relative ease with which one can remove a boot compared to retrieving one’s vehicle from a towing lot.

But heightened costs incurred by private booters risks incentivizing such companies to boot Chicagoans’ vehicles more aggressively.

The cost of a booting company’s two-year license quadruples under the new ordinance – to $1,000 from $250. In addition, booting companies must register each location in which they intend to operate, accompanied by a $100 fee per site. The ordinance also includes regulations concerning employee training, customer service and dress code, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

To make these costly regulations worthwhile, private booting companies must generate more revenue through stricter enforcement.

The newly enacted fees placed on private citizens and private booters alike reflect a broader pattern exhibited by city lawmakers. Rather than address runaway spending drivers, local lawmakers have opted for routine upticks in taxes, surcharges and fees.

As a result, Chicagoans are the most-taxed residents in Illinois, a fact reinforced not just by the effective rates that they pay, but by the sheer number of taxes as well. Indeed, Chicago residents pay beyond 30 city taxes and fees, pinching residents for upwards of $1,000 each year.

Chicago City Council upped the burden last year by approving Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2018 budget almost unanimously. The budget included a bevy of tax increases on ride-sharing, concerts and telephone bills. In 2015, the City Council approved a budget that included the largest property tax increase in modern Chicago history.

Transportation and travel have been targets of Chicago’s taxation appetite since long before the most recent set of regulations and fees. Short-term visitors to the city find themselves hit with exorbitant costs during their stay, thanks to the city’s plethora of taxes on everything from ridesharing to car rentals.

However, their stay is temporary. Chicagoans get sideswiped by tax and fee hikes year-round.

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