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Cabbie slowed by $14,000 in parking fines

Taxi driver Adolph Nortey is drowning in parking tickets.
In fact, Nortey has so many unpaid parking tickets he gave up opening the City of Chicago Department of Finance envelopes that flooded his mailbox.
“Almost every day I get a ticket. I am not a reckless driver. I don’t intentionally go anywhere to go park illegally,” he said. “I don’t even wait in a cab line.
“I am always traveling around the city, because the city allows us to drop off and pick up anywhere,” Nortey told me.
He argues that taxicab drivers are being hit with unreasonable parking fines because cabbies feel compelled to drop off passengers wherever the passengers say.
Despite the scores of parking violations, Nortey swears he never actually parks his cab in no-parking zones.
Most of Nortey’s parking violations are: parking/standing prohibited; curb loading zone; obstruct roadway; and street cleaning.
He blames overzealous traffic aides for the tickets but admits he didn’t contest the citations because he didn’t believe it would have done any good.
“Last month when Nortey went to renew his chauffeur’s license, the “fly tickets” caught up to him.
He owes the city nearly $14,000 in parking fines — enough tickets to fill a grocery bag. (That is how he presented his tickets to me.) Nortey will have to come up with $5,000 in cash and get on a payment plan before the city will renew his chauffeur license.
According to a spokesman for the City of Chicago’s finance department, Nortey’s outstanding debt in 2011 was $13,670.
“He made a payment to renew his chauffeur license for the 2012 calendar year but failed to keep to his payment plan. He made no additional payments in 2012, which has resulted in the city putting a hold on his license renewal,” according to an email from Holly Stutz, Deputy Comptroller of the city’s Department of Finance.
“I don’t even know what $5,000 looks like,” said Nortey, who emigrated from Ghana 25 years ago and joined the large population of immigrants that have found work in the U.S. as taxicab drivers.
He has since become an American citizen.
“I spent all my life here. Raised my kids here. This is my home. I haven’t gotten rich. I am not getting rich,” the divorced father of three said.
Nortey and other cab drivers argue that the so-called “fly tickets” are unfair — tickets that are mailed instead of placed on a vehicle.
Mohammad Sheikh, who has been driving a cab for 14 years, explained: “900 North Michigan Avenue is ‘No Park,’ but a passenger wants to get out in front of 900 North Michigan,” he told me while he waited in a cab line in front of 350 N. Orleans.
“I know the traffic aide is behind us and will give a ticket. But I can’t tell the passenger that I’m going to let her off in the next block. She wants to get off at 900 North Michigan,” Sheikh said.
He also pointed out that collecting a fare takes longer, which increases the risk that a traffic aide will write a ticket.
“Nowadays, everyone uses a credit card. [Cabbies] are supposed to take three or four minutes, but it takes a longer time, and we get a ticket for that. Senior citizens take a longer time,” Sheikh said.
“I picked up a passenger at 180 North Michigan and she wanted me to drop her in front of the door. I don’t want to drop her there, because I could get a ticket, but certain passengers have to go in front of the door,” he said. “I should not be getting a ‘fly ticket’ if I am letting out a passenger.”
“Fly ticket” is not a term used by Chicago Finance Department, Stutz, told me.
“You might ask the cab driver what he means by that,” she said in her email.
In a letter to the editor posted by Karam J. Singh at, the longtime cabbie identified “fly tickets” as one of 12 problems Chicago cab drivers face.
“I feel so beaten down,” Nortey said. “It is so difficult making a living here.”
The only time many of us have kind words for cab drivers is when we are standing in the rain.
So I’m not expecting Nortey to get much sympathy.
But the next time you take a cab, you might want to resist getting out in the middle of the block.

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