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Chicago Promotes Inclusion in Resident Services by Expanding Payment Kiosk Installations

City of Chicago

Chicago, IL

Chicago’s in-person processes for residents to make payments did not foster inclusion and left residents out of this essential service. Through the deployment of 74 payment kiosks, Chicago residents now have a safe, convenient method to make fee-free payments 24/7.

Topics Covered

Customer Service
Payment
Process Improvement

Funding

General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Status

Operational since 2017

Gov Champion

Comptroller

Problem Addressed

Chicago’s previous in-person processes for its 2.7 million residents to make payments were not inclusive and left certain residents behind.

For example, residents who wanted or needed to pay utility bills, citations, or taxes in person might have needed to take time off work, find childcare, and acquire transportation to make a payment at city hall during normal business hours. Those costs added up for residents who could only make partial payments, especially when factoring in fees associated with credit card payments or payments made using cash, like those made by roughly 25% of the city’s residents. Underbanked citizens, who may lack access to a bank account or credit card, might face further obstacles when using high-fee services like check-cashing stores.

The COVID-19 pandemic magnified these essential services gaps when it became more difficult for residents to leave home to access in-person city services. It was clear that Chicago needed to make the payment methods it offered residents more inclusive.

Solutions Used

Chicago installed 74 payment kiosks throughout the city to eliminate barriers for residents making payments and make services more inclusive. 

Chicago first deployed payment kiosks in 2017. In 2021, the city more than tripled kiosk locations to strategically place 74 payment kiosks throughout the city to allow residents safe and convenient access to payment services.

Through the kiosks, the city has a way to collect payments, ranging from paying utility bills to parking tickets. Residents can pay via card, cash, or check, and interact with the kiosk via a large user-friendly touchscreen that offers multiple language options.

To make the process as inclusive as possible, the city installed the kiosks in three main location types: payment centers that operate during normal business hours, such as City Hall; police stations, which offer a 24/7 payment option for those that need added flexibility; and libraries, which enable greater community access for neighborhoods.

“Now more than ever, it’s important that everyone has easy-to-use, self-service payment options in their own neighborhoods,” said Reshma Soni, Comptroller for the City of Chicago. “This ensures that all residents have equal access to stay current on their important bills.”

By offering residents a greater number of payment options with 24/7 access, Chicago is making sure its services are inclusive. Those who work during the day have the flexibility to make payments when convenient, eliminating the social cost associated with taking time off work or arranging for transportation. Furthermore, residents who carry cash or complete transactions at night benefit from the added security of doing so at a kiosk located within a police station.

Beyond reducing the barriers to making payments, the city is providing residents with real-time information about their balance, helping avoid fees and penalties even if they pay after business hours. Cash and card payments are fee-free, benefitting residents who can only make partial payments. The flexibility to pay via card, cash, or check also serves those who are under-banked by eliminating the need to visit high-fee check-cashing stores.

In addition to making it easier for residents to safely access in-person city services, the kiosks reduce manual payment processing and reconciliation for city staff. With resident data protection as a priority, transactions are securely facilitated through a cloud-based application and no information is stored on the kiosks.

“Anytime you invest in technology, especially technology that brings accessibility and reduces the burden on your constituents, it’s always a win for the city,” Soni said.

Outcomes

1

Chicago installed 74 kiosks around the city in police stations, libraries, and public buildings to improve essential service inclusivity for residents

2

The city took an equitable approach to improve payment systems by accepting fee-free payments via cash, card, or check

3

Resident data privacy is prioritized through cloud-based transactions, avoiding data storage on the kiosks

4

City staff can allocate time previously spent manually processing and reconciling payments to other more important tasks

5

Chicago can now offer convenient in-person payment services outside of normal business hours, increasing inclusivity for a wide range of residents

Lessons Learned

1

The social costs imposed upon residents to access city services is often not measured but can make a critical difference in how services are used and whether their provision is equitable.

Something Unique

Chicago’s deployment of this technology is the largest municipal installation in the country.

Who Should Consider

Cities looking to increase access to payment services in a way that prioritizes equity and inclusivity.

Last Updated

Aug 10th, 2022
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