In Transit: The waiting is the hardest part at driver's facility, but it doesn't have to be
A three-hour wait to renew a driver's license? It happened last week in Des Plaines with a perfect storm of end-of-the month sticker renewals and the ongoing backlog related to COVID-19 closures.
But there are ways to avoid a marathon session in the driver's facility line amid a worldwide pandemic, said Dave Druker, spokesman for Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.
That advice is too late for Matt Arado, who showed up bright and early July 28 at the Des Plaines facility on Lee Street to renew his license, which expired during the state's stay-at-home spring.
Arado, a former Daily Herald writer, arrived shortly before 8 a.m. and finished up at about 11:30 a.m.
"Roughly three hours of that time was spent outside, waiting in line," he said.
"No one was happy to be waiting for that long, obviously, but the mood was calm," Arado said, and everyone was wearing a face mask. "I got the sense that people understood that wait times would be long. One person brought his own chair. I brought the book I'm reading and got through nearly 100 pages."
And aside from one maskless passerby who yelled, "Driving should be a right, not a privilege!" at customers, there was little drama.
"The employees did a good job keeping the line organized. They came out early and walked the line to check everyone's documents, etc.," Arado said. "When we got closer to the entrance, they made sure to keep us roughly six feet apart. Inside the building, things moved fairly quickly -- at least for people like me, who were there just to renew."
There are 600,000 expired Illinois driver's licenses and vehicle stickers, Druker said. But there is no need to rush to get in line yet.
Because of closures during the state's stay-at-home order, all licenses, driver's licenses, ID cards, vehicle registration stickers, restricted driving permits and monitoring device driving permits "currently expired or set to expire by Sept. 30 have been extended until Nov. 1," officials said.
Druker also recommended checking cyberdriveillinois.com for hours and days specific locations operate. Numerous facilities are closed Monday and open Tuesday, meaning Tuesday mornings can be a crush. In addition, sites are typically busier toward the end of the month when stickers go stale.
Also, "I can't guarantee it, but some people have better luck going later in the afternoon rather than first thing in the morning," Druker said.
All employees and customers are required to wear face coverings, and plexiglass dividers are installed at work stations. Six-foot distancing is mandated and the number of people inside a facility is limited, hence outside lines.
"We're asking customers to be patient when they come and we'll get them through as fast as we can," Druker said.
Or you can avoid the in-person experience altogether and renew online, he recommended.
Druker noted that "our employees make a concerted effort to find and bring inside the building, seniors, pregnant persons and those with disabilities. If a customer is missed, they should seek out one of our employees wearing an orange vest, who will bring them inside."
And finally, for folks frenzied about meeting the REAL ID deadline, relax. The date has been postponed a year to Oct. 1, 2021.
Metra Union Pacific West Line rider Katie Sherwood asked what's happening with additional tracks west of West Chicago.
"The project calls for expanded to three tracks along a 6.3-mile-long segment from Kress Road in West Chicago to Peck Road in Geneva," Metra spokeswoman Meg Thomas-Reile said. "The UP is currently finalizing real estate purchases required for the project, and the bid package for construction is currently under review with plans to go to bid later this year. Once the project is under contract and construction is underway, it is expected to take 24 months to complete.
"The project plans show that an additional bridge will be needed for the third track at Route 31," she said.
As reconstruction of the Mile Long Bridge on the Tri-State Tollway grinds on, lane closures at the nexus with LaGrange Road start this week. Northbound LaGrange Road will be down to two lanes through November between I-294 and 87th Street. Expect delays during rush-hour.
Gains in trains
As ridership crawls back, Metra is adding more BNSF Line express trains and adjusting schedules starting Monday. The 7:20 a.m. inbound train from Aurora will express from Brookfield to downtown, saving 10 minutes, and a 3:38 p.m. outbound train from Union Station will express to Brookfield then make all stops. For details, go to metrarail.com.