Getting around Chicago is getting pricier in 2013

My Wisch List newspaper column from Saturday, Jan. 5, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. The John Hancock Center and the Willis (or Sears) Tower. The Cubs and the White Sox.

And, well, nickels and dimes.

Throughout the country, the Windy City is known for any number of famous pairs. But throughout the Land of Lincoln, it’s also known for its number of ever-creeping fees and taxes that can nickel and dime both residents and visitors to death.

Here in 2013, that rep isn’t changing. Rather, it’s only growing as the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and the city’s parking meters again dig deeper into people’s wallets. The following is a primer to fill you in on when the transportation fare increases go into effect and how they could impact your travel plans to Chicago this year.

Jan. 1: Chicago parking meters

Like a bottomless Christmas stocking, former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s 75-year privatized parking meter lease is the gift that just keeps on giving. Or, you know, taking.

For the fifth straight year since Daley pushed through the ill-advised deal with Chicago Parking Meters LLC, the prices at the city’s parking meters are going up. In 2012, parking in downtown Chicago was already more expensive than any other city in the U.S. at $5.75 per hour. On Jan. 1, however, that price rose to $6.50 an hour, making Windy City parking the priciest in all of North America, according to CBSChicago.com.

The downtown rate applies to all meters in an area bounded by Congress Parkway on the south, Wacker Drive on the north and west and the lake on the east.

In the Central Business District – an area just outside downtown, and bounded by Lake Michigan to the east, North Avenue to the north, Halsted Street to the west and Roosevelt Road to the south – parking meter rates have jumped from $3.50 per hour to $4 per hour. Meanwhile, in the city’s neighborhoods, parking has risen from $1.75 to $2 an hour.

This increase is the final automatic hike under the city’s lease deal, but prices reportedly could go up at the same rate of inflation. And, don’t worry, they will.

Jan. 14: CTA passes

Each weekday, I ride the “L” to and from work. As long as the train cars aren’t too crowded, I find the trip enjoyable enough and the colorful characters on board can often make it amusing.

Eventually, there will probably be an entertainment tax for that.

In the meantime, the prices on many of the Chicago Transit Authority’s passes are going up significantly on Jan. 14. While the new CTA budget does hold the line on single-ride fares at $2.25, it increases the price of one-day passes popular with tourists from $5.75 to $10 – an increase of nearly 75 percent.

Three-day passes, meanwhile, will go from $14 to $20, weekly passes from $23 to $28 and 30-day passes from $86 to $100.

Feb. 1: Metra passes

A year ago, Metra imposed the largest fare increase in its history when it upped prices by almost 30 percent across the board. This year’s hike, which takes effect on Feb. 1, will impact only those who purchase 10-ride tickets, said to be less than a quarter of Metra’s riders.

Ten-ride tickets will rise between $2.75 and $9.25, depending on distance. The increase means tickets will actually cost the equivalent of 10 one-way rides. Currently, 10-ride tickets cost the equivalent of nine rides.

To prevent riders from stockpiling the cheaper tickets before the price hike, Metra said 10-rides purchased before Jan. 31, 2013, will be valid only through Feb. 28, 2013.