Parking Ticket 101: Welcome To Chicago!!! A Beginners Guide To Driving In Chicago
Nearly every week, this website gets e-mails from people new to Chicago who have received Mayor Daley’s version of a “Welcome To Chicago” gift–a bright orange parking ticket or tickets for some infraction that someone from a normal place in America, would never think could be a legitimate violation.
These surprised and exasperated drivers then turn to our website with questions.
So The Expired Meter has put together a primer for new Chicago residents whom drive.
Read and heed the advice below and you’ll be a lot happier Chicagoan.
We are basically compressing approximately 12 months of learning the hard and expensive way, into 15 minutes of reading.
You are welcome!
License Plates & Registration
If you move to Chicago from out of state, technically, you must obtain new Illinois registration and license plates from the Illinois Secretary of State within 30 days.
You have 90 days to drive on your former state’s driver’s license before it must be obtain an Illinois driver’s license.
If you move to Chicago from another town, technically, you have 30 days to change your registration address and get a new driver’s license, with the Illinois Secretary of State.
Here’s where you can find your closest Secretary of State Drivers Facility.
For more information on this subject, check out the Secretary of State’s website.
All Chicago residents, technically, with license plates registered to an address within the city limits, must purchase an annual city sticker.
Currently, the city sticker costs $75.
The fine for being a resident and NOT purchasing a city sticker is $120!
New residents are given 30 days from the day they become residents (their move date) to purchase a city sticker. You must go in person to the City Clerk’s office downtown, one of their satellite offices, a Dept. of Revenue substation or at a local currency exchange.
When you make your initial city sticker purchase, you must bring proof of your new residency, ie: a lease or rental agreement.
When you purchase a new vehicle, you also have 30 days to purchase a city sticker and slap it on your windshield.
If you don’t purchase your city sticker within 30 days of your new residency or new vehicle purchase, you’ll be hit with a $40 late fee.
City sticker fees for new residents or for a new vehicle can be pro-rated. The full price of $75 will be in effect until from June 1st to November 30th. But from December 1st to March 31st, it drops to $50 and then drops to $25 from April 1st to May 31st.
You must bring in the proper documentation to prove you qualify for the pro-rated fees with documents which would include your lease, title/mortgage, car dealer bill of sale, vehicle title, or vehicle registration date.
For more information, and locations of payment centers, check out the Chicago City Clerk’s website.
Residential Permit Parking
There are some streets and areas of the city, where drivers are not allowed to park unless they have a residential permit.
Yes, it’s a big bunch of crap as we all know, tax money pays for streets.
But it’s a sad reality in Chicago so here are the facts.
These residential parking zones generally are for very high density areas, but not always.
These zones have different times of enforcement. Some are all the time, 24 hours a day. Others are from 6 PM – 6 AM. It all depends.
The key is to pay attention and not park where these signs are posted. That is unless you are visiting a friend and they have a handy dandy guest pass waiting for you to put on your dashboard.
If you decide to taunt fate and park in a residential parking zone without a sticker, you risk a $60 ticket.
If you move into an area that has zoned parking, you need to change your registration to your new address, make sure you have a city sticker or when you purchase your city sticker, apply for your residential parking permit.
Check out the website for the City Clerk of Chicago for more residential parking permit info.
Trucks are not allowed to park on the majority of residential streets in Chicago. This means pickup trucks too–at least if you have B-Truck plates.
If you move to Chicago with a B-Truck plate, we strongly suggest you change the registration to a standard passenger plate. Otherwise, prepare to be ticketed.
In addition, vehicles with B-Truck plates are not allowed to legally drive on Lake Shore Drive. If anything, this is an even better reason to not have a B-Truck plate.
Back AND Front Plate Display
In Illinois, you must have both back AND front plates displayed on your vehicle. Other states may allow only the back plate displayed. So if you have out of state plates, Illinois law does not apply.
But, here in Illinois, you need to have both. Ignore the law and you will be ticketed and fined $50.
Winter Parking Restrictions
Every year, from December 1 to April 1, a bunch of seasonal parking restrictions and outright parking bans go into effect.
Overnight Parking Bans
There are some major city arteries where no parking is allowed overnight from 3 AM – 7 AM, no matter the weather. Don’t ignore the signs just because there is no snow.
Snow, ice, dry pavement– park overnight on one of these streets and you’re making a trip to the auto pound the next morning.
Here’s a map of the streets where the overnight parking bans are in effect, a full listing of those streets.
Snow Routes (2″ Snow Ban)
There are other major thoroughfares, otherwise known as snow routes in the city where, when 2″ of snow or more hits the ground, you need to move your vehicle elsewhere, lest you be towed. This means ANYTIME there is 2″ of snow or more, not just overnight. So, if you park on one of these streets, you need to watch the weather carefully.
NOTE: Sometimes the 2″ snow ban and the overnight parking bans apply to the same streets.
When winter parking restrictions end, street cleaning season begins.
From April 1 – November 30th, street sweepers putter up and down the streets of Chicago to theoretically clean the pavement and rid the streets of the flotsam and jetsam that urban environments seem to create.
Generally speaking, your street gets swept twice a month. One side gets cleaned on one day and then on the next day, the other side gets cleaned.
Street cleaning enforcement begins at 9 AM and ends at 3 PM. In that time period your vehicle cannot be parked on the side of the street to be cleaned or you risk getting a ticket. And when I say risk, I really mean, it will be ticketed.
Street cleaning violations are $50.00.
Signs announcing street cleaning are either permenantly installed or in most cases, color-coded signs are put up, and again theoretically, 24 hours or more before street cleaning is supposed to occur.
In addition, street cleaning schedules are posted here.
I suggest checking the street cleaning schedules for the streets you park on and then put the dates on your calendar so you have lots of advanced warning.
While enforcement of these violations are already pretty intense, the city has upped the ante and will soon have all street sweepers armed with cameras to make sure it nails everyone who parks illegally on street cleaning days.
Not only are tinted windows not allowed by Chicago municipal law, but are illegal by Illinois state law as well.
If you are moving to Chicago from out of town, make sure you have no, zero, none, nada tint on your front windshield and front side windows.
If you have tinted windows, spend the $30-$50 to have the tint removed or you’ll get hit with a $25 ticket now, but it jumps to $250 after January 15, 2009.
Red light Cameras
If you are moving from out of town, you may not be familiar with these things called red light cameras.
These are special cameras, mounted at certain intersections which will photograph your license plate if you blow through a red light there. A few weeks later you will receive a ticket for $100. These are very hard to beat.
We wrote a more extensive post on red light cameras a few months ago that will give you the red light camera lowdown.
Here is a list of all of Chicago’s red light camera locations.
Most people scream in horror or frustration when they see it on their car. Other people pace and rant when they realize they’ve been caught. It has been known to make grown men cry and hurt the wallets of many. It’s the boot.
The boot or the Denver boot, is a big, yellow, heavy, metal lock the city will slap onto your car, making it immobile, if you don’t pay your parking tickets.
If you have three or more unpaid parking tickets or red light violations in Final Determination Status, you will be eligible for the boot. This may change soon to two tickets if Mayor Daley gets his way. But in the meantime, make sure you have no more than two unpaid tickets or you risk getting booted.
Getting booted will cost you $60 for the boot removal fee, but you also have to pay ALL unpaid tickets that are in final determination.
If you don’t pay up within 24 hours, while it doesn’t happen every time, the city can and will tow your booted vehicle to the auto pound. This will cost you an additional $160 plus any storage fees the longer you leave your vehicle there.
All newer tickets that are being contested, or are still eligible to be contested or are not in Final Determination status, do not have to be paid to have the boot removed.