Cautionary Tales – The City that Sold Itself to Wall Street

1st September, 2023

Cautionary Book Club:When Morgan Stanley offered to lease Chicago’s parking meters for the princely sum of $1 billion, the City Council were convinced they had struck gold and hastily signed the deal. They soon learnt, however, that they hadn’t just traded away parking revenue. They had traded away the streets themselves…

In the first ever hybrid episode of Cautionary Tales, Tim Harford tells the story of the Chicago parking metres fiasco of 2008. In the second half of the episode, Tim is joined by Henry Grabar, author of Paved Paradise, to talk about the lessons to glean from Chicago’s deal with Wall Street, and why parking is such an emotive issue for so many.

[Apple] [Spotify] [Stitcher]

Further reading

This episode is based, with permission, on Henry Grabar’s book Paved Paradise.

Supplementary sources include John Kass’s Chicago Tribune column of May 22, 2008, Carol Marin “Drivers’ anger over meters boiling over into a boycott” in the Chicago Sun-Times 25 March 2009, Jon Hilkevitch “Parking meter fixes rushed” in the Chicago Tribune 26 March 2009, and Jordan Stutts “You’re just milking the system” Infrastructure Investor 11 Sep 2018.

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