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.

City Sticker


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.

B-Truck Plates


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.

Here is a map of all snow route streets effected by the 2″ snow parking ban and a listing of all Chicago snow routes.

NOTE: Sometimes the 2″ snow ban and the overnight parking bans apply to the same streets.

Street Cleaning


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.

Tinted Windows

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.

Da’ Boot


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.

250 Responses to Parking Ticket 101: Welcome To Chicago!!! A Beginners Guide To Driving In Chicago

  1. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    It sounds like the ticket was not written properly. If you are registered in a different state than NY, but the ticket was issued to a NY plate, you never got a ticket. I wouldn’t worry about it.

  2. Anon says:


    Department of Finance parking enforcement is not supposed to be ticketing NJ or CT vehicles for “No Plate Expiration Sticker” as we were informed in 2009 that those 2 states do not require it.

    Please check the Agency of Issuance (EG: Finance, City Clerk, Ser Co, CPD) and call 312-744-PARK to complain.

  3. Joseph svec says:

    I got a ticket for 0964100G Stop sign or traffic signal and cannot find an explanation of the violation, there was a stop sign at the end of the block but i was behind it, you cannot even see it in the photo, should i
    contest, don`t have much time.

  4. Joseph svec says:

    Should have read up, found my answer and am paying up, thanks
    for your sight

  5. Jens says:

    I have Ohio plates and just got a ticket while visiting a friend for not having a front plate. When did Chicago start enforcing other State’s laws? Seems rather harsh. I can take my tourism dollars elsewhere.

  6. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    Sorry, Chicago ticket writers are looking for revenue and because you’re in violation of the law–even if it’s a different state–then they will ticket you.

    Ohio vehicle owners must have both a front and back plate. Although, state legislators are considering whether to change the law according to a few news reports I hastily looked up.

    Here’s the thing. If I were you, I would not pay it. There’s nothing of any consequence they can do to you. You may get a few threatening letters–that’s about it. Big deal. It won’t affect your credit rating if you refuse to pay the ticket.

    I would suggest getting that front plate on your car so you’re compliant with Ohio law. A ticket there will be of more consequence to you there than one from Chicago, IL.

  7. Drew says:


    Chicago police and Department of Finances Parking Enforcement staff began enforcing all states that require a rear and front plate this year Jan. 15th., after receiving instructions and training from their respective managers and superiors on which states require 2 plates by legislation.

  8. Pete says:

    Starting next year Rahm will order the ticketing of any vehicle parked on the street without a front plate – regardless of the state where its registered. Got to plug that giant hole in the budget, you see. Maybe the cameras can start issuing these tickets too.

  9. Jackie says:

    Is there anywhere I can look to see whether the 2″ parking ban is in effect? I just parked my car on one of those streets, and it seems like there might possibly be 2″ of snow on the ground, but that’s been true since last night and it doesn’t appear that any cars have been towed yet.

  10. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    The 2″ ban is almost NEVER invoked. The last time it was in place was the blizzard of 2010 I believe. My contacts at Streets and Sanitation couldn’t remember the last time before that the city actually had to announce the 2″ ban.

    If there is a 2″ ban, the city will announce it to the media. Please don’t sweat this. You have nothing to worry about.

  11. Concerned says:

    Does the city boot at the ORD employee lot even though it is not in Chicago? I need an option for parking.

  12. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    In general, the city does boot at airport parking lots. I would assume that includes the ORD employee parking lot.

  13. DoR Employee says:

    The ORD Employee Lot is Owned by the City and is part of Ohare Property.

  14. eli says:

    I got a ticket for a residential permit parking violation. The permit I had was set to expire on 12/29 at 12:50 pm. The ticket I got was issued on 12/29 at 12:52. BUT, on the ticket it says that the permit expired on 12/28. That was when I wrote the permit. I know it was still expired, but is it worth contesting the incorrect date?

  15. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    I would fight that ticket based on the date.

    I think you would win. Just tell them the RPP guest pass was for 12/29 but the ticket writer wrote the expiration date as 12/28.

    The ticket is defective and therefore should be tossed. Fight it in person and you should win.

  16. Steve says:

    I got a parking ticket today for “TRUCK/RV/BUS/TAXI RESIDENTIAL ST”

    The thing is, I was parked in a metered spot and my meter was current. Can a metered spot be also considered residential or did the meter maid just figure I would pay it without question?

    I was on Orchard immediately north of Diversey, in between the “Pay for parking at pay box” arrows, and WELL south of the “Residential Permit Required” signs. I have photos.

    Thanks for your help.

  17. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    What kind of vehicle were you driving?

    The answer to your question at the moment, is I don’t know.

    It seems kind of screwed up if there’s a metered parking spot but then you can’t park there due to a residential restriction.

    I’ll make some inquiries.

  18. pkdickman says:

    Title 9 has added a definition for…

    “Residential street ” means the length of any street between street intersections when 50 percent or more of the occupied frontage of the street is in use for residence purposes.

    Technically, they gotcha if you were driving a truck, etc.
    You might be able to beat it if the ALJ is not up to speed, but I would have a back up arguement

  19. Pete says:

    Isn’t a metered space non-residential by definition? Meters are always found in or immediately near a commercial district.

  20. pkdickman says:

    13 yrs ago, when I got my first truck parking ticket, I beat it with a zoning map that showed a B4-2 district.
    I am pretty sure the definition for res street wasn’t there.
    Its there now, and it says corner to corner.
    There is no definition for a commercial street.

  21. DoR Employee says:


    PK is right, there is no definition for “Commercial Street”.

    There is however a definition for “Business Street” and it is the reverse of “Residential Street.”

    Sheridan/Devon/Western/Ashland and all other streets or avenues or etc street types can qualify as a Residential Street under the municipal definition. The trick is does the ticket writer know that definition to be able to differentiate what type of street the particular hundred block of a given street qualifies as?

    Now, having said that… Meter active and receipt time not expired? No ticket should have been issued.

    Meter expired ? Expired meter ticket AND the truck ticket can both be issued.

  22. PKDickman says:

    DoR says,
    There is however a definition for “Business Street” and it is the reverse of “Residential Street.”

    Darn, there it is. It’s tough to get old.

    Either way, meters or no meters this piece “around the corner” is officially a residential street. Even if they were to argue otherwise, they would be in violation of another subsection of the same ordinance that restricts most of the same vehicles on “business streets”.
    Which brings me to the backup argument.

    This ordinance allows for parking long enough for expeditious loading and unloading.

    They have a parking receipt. Since this indicates a closed end stay of less than the meter max, I would think that a reasonable case could be made that this stay was expeditious.

  23. Ohioan in CHI says:

    I received a ticket on Jan 24, 2014 for not having a front plate. My car is registered in Ohio. Is this a ticket that I need to pay? What would be the consequence of not paying?

  24. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    According to one source, front plates are required in Ohio and therefore, Chicago can enforce and ticket.

    Do you need to pay? That’s up to you. You can ignore it, but it will eventually double. If you have 2 or more unpaid tickets over a year old you can get booted.

    Here’s a good resource for knowing which states allow a single plate.

  25. Anon says:

    New Violations that can be issued by PEA’s are coming this year.


  26. natalie says:

    I live in new york, if I want to visit downtown chicago, and I am planning on driving, do I need to worry about a city sticker? Can I park on the street or is a public parking garage my only safe bet?

  27. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    Don’t sweat the city sticker–you don’t need it. Only Chicago residents need to purchase one. Please come and visit our great city. Just park legally so the city doesn’t give you a bright orange gift on your windshield.

  28. HANK says:

    I Got a ticket for no displayed city sticker in chicago. can i contest by mail since my license plate is registered in Du page county. one problem is my driver license address in still in chicago.

  29. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    For the sake of advising you, I am going to assume you actually reside outside the city in DuPage County.

    To beat this ticket, it will be easiest if you have proof you live outside the city. A lease, rental agreement, bills and other such documentation will do the trick. Your driver’s license is an excellent way to do it as well. I would advise you change your address with the Sec. of State as soon as you can–as if you moved, you are technically supposed to update the SOS within 30 days.

    Once you have this or other documentation with you at the hearing, you present the documentation and your registration that proves the car should never have been ticketed as only vehicles registered within the city need to have a city sticker.

  30. Drew says:

    Geek and Hank…

    Here’s the problem with that advice…The ALO is going to ask for your registration and DL…not your lease or phone bill and they are not required to do so.

    Your DL has an expiration date AND a Date ISSUED. So you walk into the Hearing to contest the ticket and your DL shows a Issue date After the ticket was issued.

    “Ticket Sustained, Pay Fine” is the order from the ALO

    Who cares where you live….you didn’t change your DL and registration when you moved and that is the problem.

    And per the City Clerk…

    Your vehicle is required to have a City Wheel Tax Emblem (City Sticker) regardless of Registration if you live in the City of Chicago for more than 30 days.

    And if you got a Ticket for the City Sticker ordinance, someone ran your plate through the Sec State Database.

    Pay the ticket…get the sticker….and be happy you didn’t run into me or Capt M Plate..

    City Sticker ordinance violators can legally also be issued a ticket for NO Park/Stand Anytime Or No Park/Stand : Time Restiction

  31. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    It’s not as cut and dry as you’re outlining here.

    If he moved within the last 30 days, the DL question is not an issue.

    If he moved and forgot to change his license until recently I still think he prevails.

    If he moved and has not changed his DL but brings proof of residency he can still prevail.

    From my understanding of the muni code on this, changing one’s DL is not mentioned. The ticket and changing one’s DL are two separate issues.

    Based on my experience–both personally and watching other people fight this ticket, the odds are with Hank. I’ll admit it’s not a slam dunk, but if he presents his case well he can win.

  32. Drew says:


    There is another point.

    By state law…your address is required to be changed within 10 days of moving. The City gives you 30 days as a courtesy when you move in. We don’t have do and can amend the ordinance at any time to Revoke the 30 day time limit.

    The 10 days is also the law when you move OUT.

    (Illinois Vehicle Code, Sec. 3-416, 6-116 and 6-511)

    So the DL question is the nail in the coffin.

    The Registration isn’t proof of Residency Address. The DL is.

    He failed to change his DL…he violated State Law and now he wants a pass on the City Sticker ticket he got based off of the Sec State Database because he was either Lazy or Cheating.

  33. Unknown says:

    I was visiting Chicago. I parked at a street and paid at the meter. I did not think they issue ticket after 7pm. They issued a ticket for expired meter. Can I contest? or Can I refuse to pay? What would be the result?

  34. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    Actually, they enforce the meters until 10 PM.

    I’m not sure what grounds you would contest the ticket. If you are from out of town or perhaps even out of state, you can just not pay, but expect to get some nasty letters or phone calls trying to collect.

  35. Pete says:

    I wonder how long it will be until the meters are all enforced 24/7. Probably as part of some future meter “compromise” deal like the last one. It will happen once it becomes technologically possible to enforce without humans.

  36. Jeff says:


    In the not-so-distant future, Robot Mayor Rahm Emanuel The Second will push the City Council to allow parking tickets to be issued to motorists BEFORE they commit parking violations, based on psychic predictions of mutant police officers (as in the film “Minority Report”).

  37. Danielle says:

    So after letters are sent and there are phone calls trying to collect, can anything actually happen if parking tickets go unpaid and you live in another state?

  38. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    Living out of town and out of state gives you an advantage over the city. Unless you owe thousands of dollars, it’s unlikely anyone is going to do anything more than just call and mail you.

  39. Ashley says:

    I am a student living in Chicago. I am from AZ and have lived in Chicago for 2 years and have 1 more year left in school. I am bringing my car from AZ to Chicago for this last year but after that, I am planning to move back to AZ. My question is if I have to register my car here in IL for that 1 year, or if I can get away with parking on the street for a year without changing the registration. Can you get a city sticker with out-of-town registration? Thanks!

  40. Kevin says:

    I registered my vehicle shortly after I moved to Chicago just over two years ago. I was given only one license plate by the BMV. I put that bad boy on the back of my car (like I always had in Indiana) and went on my merry way. I’ve been told several times since then that I can be ticketed for not having a front plate. How can this be? Is it normal for the BMV to only give one plate unless you ask and/or pay more? Did they simply make a mistake with me?

  41. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    This does NOT sound right. Illinois law requires both front and back plate. Sounds like the Secy. of State screwed up.

    I would advise going back to the SOS and saying your front plate was lost and get a new one. It will cost you a few bucks but its less costly than a ticket.

  42. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    You reside in Arizona. You are temporarily living in Chicago as a student. I would keep your registration in Arizona as you will be returning after a few months of school.

    If you change your registration to Illinois, not only will you have to pay over $100 bucks for that, but then you’ll have to buy a city sticker.

    I would keep the status quo.

  43. marty says:

    My car is registered in my father’s name in Louisiana, but it lives here in Chicago with me. Do I need to re-register it here in Chicago, or, since it’s registered in Louisiana, can it live freely on our street?

  44. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    If you’re a student here, you should keep the registration in Louisiana. If it’s a permanent move, technically you should register the vehicle in Illinois which would also require you to get a Chicago city sticker.

    However, many people who’ve moved here from out of state keep vehicles registered in their former state–especially if it’s under someone else’s name.

    But, what I would recommend is that you make sure you dad is watching the mail for any mail regarding any tickets the vehicle receives so you can make sure you deal with those tickets (pay or contest) in a timely manner.

  45. lester says:

    If I buy daily parking passes for my visitors in the parking zone by my house, do my visitors also need to pay for the meters when they display the daily pass, or can they park in the zone with just the daily pass without also paying for the meters?

  46. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    If your guests park at a meter, even if its within the RPP zone, they still have to pay the meter until whenever enforcement ends. It is rare that parking meters exist within RPP zones, but in rare cases they do. Feed the meter if parked at a meter. The RPP sticker must be filled out if the car is also within that zone.

  47. Kris says:

    I’m waiting for my plate sticker that i ordered over week a go on line and it is still not here. During this time some city lady left me a violation ticket on my window for expired plates. Is there a way to take this back? i’m afraid they will put tickets every day until i get my stickerin mail please help me. thank you

  48. Dee says:

    I just moved to chicago. I have not received any tickets so far. But my car is technically registered to my mother, an Ohio resident. Are there potential laws that I need to be aware of in order to live in Logan Square? Do I eve have to change the title and registration or could it essentially stay an ohio car in my mother’s name but always be with me?

  49. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    If the vehicle is your mother’s and you’re just borrowing it, you could keep the title and registration in her name and registered in Ohio.

    If the car was registered to you, and you’ve officially moved here, you would have 30 days to change your driver’s license, registration to your new address with the Secretary of State and have 30 days to get a Chicago City sticker.

    Technically, even though the car is in your mom’s name, if you’re using it in Chicago full time, you still need to get a city sticker–although it’s hard to enforce with the Ohio plates.

  50. Drew says:

    Geek, a small correction if I may here:

    The website for the Illinois Secretary of State allows only 10 days to notify for an address change and 30 days to obtain a new one (if I’m reading it right).

    And you are required to surrender all out of state ID or DL at that time.

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