Sidewalk taxes

22Oct08

During the warmer months, many of Chicago’s restaurants set up outdoor dining areas. Normally this works out fine, and there’s plenty of room to walk around the makeshift patios. But sometimes the restaurants go too far, blocking more than two-thirds of an already narrow walking path.

In the absence of any regulations, they have every incentive to create as much dining space as possible. More tables means more meals served during peak times, and thus more revenues. But this comes at a cost to everyone else: the sidewalks are more crowded, and there might even be more accidents as people step into the street to avoid congested areas.

What’s the solution? Well, I’d like to see the city pass some limits on how much space the restaurants can take up with their seasonal patios, and make it easier to report those who are cutting into public space. Or, the city can just charge rent for the right to use the sidewalks, with the rate increasing depending on the scarcity of space and other factors. That way, the offenders would be forced to pay for obstructing everyone else’s walking path.



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