Driven Into Debt

How Tickets Burden the Poor

Parking, traffic camera and vehicle tickets generate millions of dollars in desperately needed cash each year for the City of Chicago. But for the working poor, and particularly for African Americans, paying for tickets can be difficult — opening the door to more fines and fees, and spiraling debt. Drivers who don’t pay what they owe face tough punishments from the city and state that threaten their livelihoods.

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How Chicago Ticket Debt Sends Black Motorists Into Bankruptcy

A cash-strapped city employs punitive measures to collect from cash-strapped black residents — and lawyers benefit.

Other Entries

Chicago Temporarily Halts Some Debt Collections and Ticketing Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the move to waive late penalties on city debts and stop the booting of vehicles was aimed at helping low-income residents.

A State Senator Had Thousands of Dollars in Ticket Debt. Now She’s Fighting to Make Sure Others Won’t.

Our Q+A with Illinois state Sen. Celina Villanueva, who introduced a bill to end driver’s license suspensions for unpaid red-light tickets.

Tens of Thousands of People Lost Driver’s Licenses Over Unpaid Parking Tickets. Now, They’re Getting Them Back.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation Friday to end license suspensions for unpaid parking tickets, affecting nearly 55,000 Illinois motorists. Lawmakers cited ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ Chicago reporting for leading to the new law.

A Half-Million Chicago Drivers Have Unpaid Sticker Tickets, but Only 11,400 Applied for the City’s Relief Program

Advocates for ticket reform say they’re disappointed the city didn’t do more to encourage Chicago motorists to sign up for its debt relief program. The city says more reforms are coming.

How People Are Using Our Chicago Parking Ticket Data in Their Research

Close to 1,300 people have downloaded data from our app, The Ticket Trap. We talked with some of them.

Illinois Legislators Vote to End License Suspensions for Motorists With Unpaid Parking Tickets

The measure must still be signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who has been critical of how ticket debt harms Chicago motorists.

Hundreds of Thousands of Chicago Motorists Could Receive Debt Relief From Vehicle Sticker Tickets as the City Expands Reform

Attention, Chicago motorists: You have until Oct. 31 to buy a city sticker and then qualify for a new debt forgiveness program.

Here’s What to Expect From Chicago City Council’s Ticket Reform

Chicago became the largest U.S. city to enact major reforms to its system of parking fines and fees. City officials say more changes are coming.

Chicago City Council Approves Ticket and Debt Collection Reforms to Help Low-Income and Minority Motorists

The measures, which were prompted by a ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ Chicago investigation, are scheduled to take effect by mid-November.

She’s Risked Arrest by Driving With a Suspended License for Seven Years. This Week She Got Some Big News.

Some 55,000 Illinoisans could regain their driver’s licenses very soon.

Chicago Mayor Proposes Reforms That Would Make Life Easier for Thousands of Black and Low-Income Drivers

After more than a year of reporting from ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced ticketing changes and said she would support legislation to change state law — beginning to make good on a campaign promise.

Hate Getting Parking Tickets in Chicago? Here’s How You Can Start Change-Making Conversations About the City’s Ticketing System.

We’ve created an event toolkit to help communities start or continue conversations about how Chicago’s parking and vehicle ticketing system drives motorists into debt and jeopardizes livelihoods.

Chicago Can’t Hold Impounded Vehicles After Drivers File for Bankruptcy, Court Says

A federal appeals court said the city’s aggressive legal strategy, aimed at discouraging motorists with unpaid ticket debt from filing under Chapter 13, violated the basic protections of bankruptcy, and the city was doing so mostly to generate revenue.

How to Clean Up the “Hot Mess” That Is Chicago’s Ticketing and Debt Collection Practices — According to a City Task Force

Here’s what the task force is recommending for initial reform.

Task Force on Tickets and Debt Suggests Reforms but Needs Chicago’s Mayor and City Council to Finish the Work

A report from the Chicago Fines, Fees & Access Collaborative responded to many of the problems ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ Chicago revealed.

The Ticket Trap: Front to Back

The project gave us an opportunity to try a bunch of technical approaches that could help a small organization like ours develop sustainable news apps.

Everybody in Chicago’s Mayor’s Race Says They Want Ticket Reform

Proposals from the 14 candidates range from studying ticketing enforcement disparities to overhauling payment plans.

Feeling Trapped by Vehicle Tickets? Let’s Talk About It — Live

We’re hosting a community forum on March 4 and would love to see you.

How to Use the Ticket Trap, Our New Database That Lets You Explore How Chicago Tickets Motorists and Collects Debt

We hope you’ll play around with it and let us know how we can make it better.

The Ticket Trap

We’ve collected data on 54 million tickets issued over the past two decades in the city. Search for your address and compare your ward with others, and see how Chicago’s reliance on ticketing affects motorists across the city.

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