Jesse White, governors urge later REAL ID deadline
As Illinoisans sweat over rationing toilet paper, suspect coughs and how to eyeball a 6-foot safe distance, do we really need to hustle to obtain REAL ID?
Federal law mandates that as of Oct. 1, people who want to fly domestically must have a REAL ID-compliant driver's license, which involves a tighter screening process.
But given that all driver's-license facilities are closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, it appears thousands of people won't be able to make that deadline. (Although you can travel with a U.S. passport or military identification even without REAL ID.)
The nation's governors are on it, seeking an extension of the deadline by a year or more as the infectious respiratory disease disrupts daily life across the U.S.
"We believe an extension will allow all of us to focus our efforts on combating the spread and severity of COVID-19," the National Association of Governors wrote Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.
"Given the recent challenges associated with travel restrictions, several airports have been overwhelmed by new screening requirements. Additionally, in order to slow the impact of COVID-19, several states have closed our Departments of Motor Vehicles and other state facilities."
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White closed driver's-license offices through March 31 and supports the request.
"It is the proper and necessary thing to do during this perilous time of uncertainty and crisis," spokesman Henry Haupt said.
The federal law passed after 9/11 will require passengers on domestic flights to have a driver's license or state-issued ID card with a gold star, signifying REAL ID compliance. To obtain a REAL ID, there's a very specific list of documents you need to bring to your local driver's license facility. If you've got a little time on your hands, read up on the details at realid.ilsos.gov.
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, announced Wednesday he is sponsoring a bill, which has Republican support, directing DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf to delay enforcement of Real ID until Oct. 1, 2021.
U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, a Deerfield Democrat who pushed to extend the tax filing deadline, said postponing REAL ID is a no-brainer.
"I think there will be a lot of deadlines that need to be evaluated and REAL ID is one of them," Schneider said.
You should know
Today brings a reduced schedule on all Metra routes excepting the Heritage Corridor. Rush-hour trains are still running but there will be fewer, so check Metra's website for changes. The move comes as Metra ridership dives with school canceled and thousands working from home.
As a result, Metra's sister agency, Pace, will tweak times for Shuttle Bug and other buses that transport passengers to and from train stations.
Pace is running regular service but is closing many of its public buildings. Passengers can still buy tickets and passes in the lobby of Pace headquarters, 550 Algonquin Road, Arlington Heights. Meanwhile, paratransit riders are advised to postpone all nonessential trips.
The Illinois tollway switched to all-electronic services March 14, meaning no cash payments and deactivation of automatic toll payment machines to prevent coronavirus spread.
But Mount Prospect's James Maryanski wonders, "what are the chances that these changes will become permanent after the virus threat is over?"
All-electronic tolling is temporary, agency spokesman Dan Rozek pledged. The tollway closed machines and cash buckets because the Centers for Disease Control cautions "current evidence suggests that novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. ATPMs and cash baskets, while automated, require drivers to be in physical contact with keypads and cash, and also require tollway employees to handle coins and currency."
What about transit?
The Active Transportation Alliance worries COVID-19 economic stimulus plans lawmakers are negotiating in Washington ignore transit. "Transit agencies in the Chicago area and cities across the country need emergency assistance now to keep their systems running and clean," ATA officials said.
To learn more and sign a letter to your local congressional representative, go to activetrans.org.