Chicago Kafkaesque system for moving vehicles to clear space for municipal work or TV/movie production is not working as advertised. In theory, it's straightforward: the city tows someone's car to an out-of-the-way parking space to make room and enters the new location into a database within 20 minutes of the move. Drivers looking for their cars can call 311 or go online to find out if their car has been relocated. In practice, it's typical big-city municipal Hell.

The problem, says the Chicago Tribune, is that the relocation info doesn't always make it into the system in a timely manner. Not only can it take more than 20 minutes, but some residents didn't realize the city had moved their cars until the Tribune called them and told them, weeks later. The city of Chicago says that it posts notices giving residents at least 24 hours warning when possible, but sometimes an emergency means that there's no warning.

Some residents report instances of no notice being given even when there should have been. As a result, there are owners who have reported their cars stolen when, in fact, they were merely relocated and never properly recorded by city employees. After filing police reports, canceling insurance, etc., their cars are eventually "found" and the mix-ups are cleared up. Sure, the car owners are happy to get their rides back, but there has to be a better way to handle the matter of vehicle relocation, as the reporting process is, at best, inconsistent.

The Tribune says 17,000 cars were moved last year. How many of those were lost in the system is not known. Chicago officials say they plan to provide car owners with additional advance notice via posted signs and an early warning system that details when work is scheduled to occur in the city's neighborhoods. For the moment, however, know that if your car goes missing in The Windy City, it might not be because of bad guys.

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