THE LOOP — The city's move to a rolling, year-round vehicle sticker renewal program is kicking off, with renewal notices set to arrive next week and stickers already on sale.
The changeover means that the century-old tradition of Chicago drivers battling long lines to buy a city sticker during a small window of time once a year is nearing an end.
That's because after this year's city sticker season officially ends June 30, sales will convert to a year-round system much like how the Illinois Secretary of State handles vehicle registration sticker renewals.
Starting this year, your expiration date will be pegged to your license plate, with the city sticker expiring six months after your plates so you don't have to pay both at the same time.
"We've had a soft launch of the city sticker sales program this week," says City Clerk office spokesman Patrick Corcoran. "Roughly 1.3 million renewal forms should be arriving in mailboxes early next week."
City stickers are available now at the clerk's office in City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St., and at two satellite locations, 5430 W. Gale St. and 5674 S. Archer Ave. They are also available at three Finance Department locations: 2550 W. Addison St., 4770 S. Kedzie Ave. and 2006 E. 95th St.
The city clerk's EZ>BUY online sticker renewal system is not open for Internet sales yet, but will be operational by Monday, according to Corcoran.
"By the time people get their renewal forms in the mail, they'll be able to buy online," said Corcoran. "It's the fastest and easiest way to renew. You can do it in your pajamas, as Clerk Mendoza likes to say."
City stickers also will be available starting Monday at neighborhood Currency Exchanges.
A vehicle owner's city sticker renewal date is determined by the month his state license plate sticker must be renewed. A vehicle's city sticker must be bought six months after the expiration month of a vehicle's license plate sticker.
"A vehicle owner's renewal form is going to establish their new renewal month," said Corcoran. "The motorist's new renewal month is offset six months from their vehicle license plate renewal month."
For example, a plate sticker expiring in January means a city sticker must be renewed by the end of July.
Corcoran said this offset renewal date insures drivers won't have to pay for renewing both their license plate and a city sticker at the same time, which could be a financial burden for some motorists.
In this initial year only, when sticker expiration dates are first determined, vehicle owners will be given an option for either a less expensive, shorter, prorated city sticker which expires in one to 12 months, or a more expensive, extended sticker that lasts 13-24 months before renewal is necessary.
Senior citizens 65 years or older will still pay a discounted rate of $30.34 for their city sticker but will continue to have to purchase their stickers annually.
While Corcoran said the city clerk's staff has been working to minimize confusion over the change to year-round sales, it's bumped up staffing by hiring a third-party customer service call center to address the questions of confused drivers. Fourteen customer service phone operators will answer questions from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily during sticker season.
Drivers who live in residential permit parking zones will notice a redesign of guest parking passes. The clerk's office has downsized the passes to about the size of a parking meter receipt. This allows for 15 guest passes to a page compared to the five per page in previous years.
One of the goals City Clerk Susana Mendoza set when she announced her plan to move city stickers to a year-round model was to eliminate the inevitably long lines that frustrate many drivers every sticker season. According to the Clerk and her office, drivers will see an end to long lines after this year.
"I expect this year to be like every sticker season, which is full of long lines and headaches," said Corcoran. "But we're looking at it as an opportunity to say goodbye to those long lines and headaches."
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