Pairing emissions test, sticker renewal is convenient -- for a fee
The line of drivers waiting to enter the vehicle emissions testing station in Addison was so long it disrupted traffic Tuesday.
Many of those motorists also renewed their license plate stickers while they were there, a service now offered at testing stations for a $7.50 fee on top of the regular sticker charge. The fee -- not charged to those who renew at Secretary of State facilities -- caught some customers off guard.
"It was sneaky," said Julie Wangler of Villa Park, who wasn't aware of the extra charge until the clerk rang her up. "I would probably pay it anyway but it would have been nice to know."
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency contracts out emissions tests to Chicago-based Applus Industries Ltd. Applus branched out into selling license stickers at stations in 2016, but the change came as a surprise to some drivers interviewed Tuesday.
Drivers can't renew their stickers without an up-to-date emissions certificate so the ability to complete two errands in one trip makes life easier, customers said. Several, however, called the fee excessive and wished it was more prominently advertised.
Signs outside the facility alert customers to the fact they can renew their license stickers but don't mention a charge. Fliers advertising the service state "Fee applies," in a small font. A menu of prices inside the office lists the $7.50 near the bottom, but it may jolt people who think they're in a government setting, like the secretary of state facilities, where basic renewals are $101 without a fee.
The $7.50 is the same amount -- mandated by state law -- that currency exchanges charge customers who renew vehicle stickers, explained IEPA spokeswoman Kim Biggs.
"I don't like it," said driver Lakeisha Williams of Maywood. Had she been aware of the charge, "I wouldn't have bought (the sticker) here."
"That's a cash cow," her friend Kevin Fenton remarked.
But Woodridge resident Tangeria McGee called the service "convenient."
And Evan Sturgis of Broadview was familiar with the fee because "I usually (pay) that at the currency exchange when I get it there." Of course, "if there was not a fee -- I would love that," he added with a laugh.
Biggs noted that "inspectors are instructed by Applus to verbally mention there is an additional fee when they provide the flier."
For the record, I also forked over $7.50 for my sticker renewal in January. Getting my emissions test done and renewing my sticker simultaneously was sweet, but no one mentioned the $7.50 charge when I received the flier.
"This is meant to be a service to the public," Biggs said. "The public does not have to take advantage of this service at the testing facilities."
Applus officials decided to offer stickers after noticing that many people getting emissions tests had license plate stickers that were about to expire or already had, spokesman Dennis Palmer said.
"It's been well-received ... people are grateful," he said. However, "I'll look into whether we can do a better job about disclosing the fee," Palmer said.
The fee offsets expenses including extra staff, software, credit card processing fees, equipment and some minor structural changes to offices.
The emissions stations handle more than 2 million tests a year and, in 2017, 25 percent of customers also bought a sticker. In 2018, Applus projects 30 percent will.
Biggs added that "the sale of vehicle registration stickers is not part of the Illinois EPA's contract with Applus. Illinois EPA only pays a per-test charge to the vendor and receives no funds from the convenience fee charged by Applus."
Last month, the city of Chicago submitted its interim runway rotation plan for overnight O'Hare flights to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The agency will start to analyze the proposal and hold public forums in the next year. The rotation, meant to distribute nighttime jet noise across the region, would last until fall 2020 if approved.
Eyes on you
The Chicago Transit Authority announced last week it will add 1,000 new security cameras and modernize nearly 4,000 older cameras this year. It also will install new lighting and safety upgrades at all its 146 train stations.
Reader Nick Gregory of Lake Villa chimed in on crosswalk safety: "Drivers not heeding the presence of pedestrians in or near a crosswalk, well that's no surprise. We have lots of laws but many are not enforced so drivers do whatever pleases them as they already know that there will be no consequences driving the way they do. And of course if you read our state's crosswalk law, you can easily see that it is a double-edged sword."
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