Nov 21, 2023 - News

New Chicago budget relies on more city fines

About $5 million in new city revenue is expected to come from fines for parking in downtown bus and bike lanes. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Mayor Brandon Johnson is relying on $46 million in additional revenue from fines next year to balance his 2024 budget, per the Tribune.

What's happening: Overall, the new budget is counting on $348 million in fines from people who get ticketed for violating parking, speeding, red light, traffic and sanitation laws, among others.

Why it matters: No one likes getting slapped with fines, and studies show Chicago's ticketing and debt collection system has disproportionately affected people in Black and low-income neighborhoods, those often with the least ability to pay them.

The intrigue: During last month's budget address, Johnson said the city has "relied too long on a tax structure that heavily burdens our lowest-income residents and is too reliant on property taxes, fees, fines and rates."

Between the lines: Though the Johnson administration initially said Smart Streets — a new program that tickets drivers for parking in downtown bike and bus lanes — would generate the additional fines, officials later clarified they expect only about $5 million from the program next year, the Tribune reports.

  • Instead, they said most of the money would come from unspecified "general enforcement activities."

Context: Although former Mayor Lori Lightfoot enacted key reforms to reduce fee burdens on low-income residents, she also lowered the threshold for speed camera ticketing, earning the city $121 million in fines over two years, according to ABC 7 Chicago.

How it works: When the Smart Streets pilot starts in 2024, drivers parked in downtown bus or bike lanes may be ticketed via cameras mounted on poles and CTA buses from the lake to Ashland and Roosevelt Road to North Avenue.

  • The program is aimed at reducing cyclist-involved crashes. Chicago has already seen 1,600 this year, according to WBEZ.

Other new fines include a minimum penalty of $2,000 for buses that drop off migrants outside an approved landing zone area and outside the hours of 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday, the mayor's office tells Axios.


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