Chicago soon will have the nation’s most expensive downtown parking meters in the United States.

Beginning New Year’s Day, the meters in the city’s downtown area will begin charge $6.50 an hour. That's a $.75 rise from last year's $5.75.

The company that operates the meters plans to have all machines set to new rates by the end of February.

Former Mayor Richard Daley got the City Council to approve the company’s 75-year contract in 2008. In return, the city got a $1.1 billion payment — much of which has already been spent.

Current Mayor Rahm Emanuel has ordered an independent audit of the deal, which is now largely viewed as a financial disaster.