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.

Featured

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.

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.

Other Entries

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.

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.

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.

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.

We Want to Hear About Your Experiences With Vehicle Tickets, So We Created a Facebook Group

We’ll share our latest stories there and give you a preview of an upcoming project.

Chicago Task Force Will Take on Ticket and Debt Collection Reform

The group is part of an effort to make vehicle ticketing less unfair.

Chicago Throws Out 23,000 Duplicate Tickets Issued Since 1992 to Motorists Who Didn’t Have Vehicle Stickers

The move is the city’s latest effort to reform its troubled ticketing and debt collection practices.

Chicago City Council Approves Modest First Reforms on Ticketing and Debt

The changes signal a growing acknowledgement that the city’s reliance on fines and fees to generate revenue has come at a significant cost for some residents.

Top Chicago Alderman Adds to Growing Momentum for Ticket and Debt Reform

The proposal, the latest in a series of reforms aiming to respond to growing public pressure, would make it easier for motorists to avoid having their driver’s licenses suspended.

Chicago Considers Wiping Away Old Ticket Debt for Motorists Who File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

The proposal is intended to discourage drivers from filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but it does nothing to change onerous payment plans for motorists who don’t file at all.

Chicago Alderman Proposes Reining in Ticket Penalties That Drove Thousands of Black Motorists Into Debt

The proposal would cap late penalties and create community service alternatives to some fines.

Chicago City Clerk Calls for Reforms of Vehicle Sticker Program

Anna Valencia proposed creating city sticker options so low-income drivers can afford to be in compliance and avoid costly tickets.

What More Can We Learn From Chicago Ticket Data?

We’ve made the data easy to download, and we invite you to use it as we keep reporting.

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