Mileage and waiting times that drive up Chicago taxicab fares would rise by 25 percent under a 10-point plan proposed Monday to put more money into the pockets of struggling cabbies.
“We’re trying to fix a broken taxi industry. Drivers are not making enough money and they see the city and big companies using us like an ATM machine by over-fining, over-ticketing and freezing fares for nine years,” said Peter Enger, secretary of the United Taxidrivers Community Council.
“The taxi industry is losing drivers because of lack of income and over-regulation. Those are the two messages. If the city doesn’t respond, we’ll see a continual deterioration in the services the taxi industry can provide to the riding public.”
Three months ago, the United Taxidrivers Community Council signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Taxi Workers Alliance, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, in hope of unionizing Chicago cabdrivers and bolstering their political clout.
To pull it off, the UTCC will have to double its membership — from 500 to more than 1,000.
The plan unveiled Monday just might make that goal easier to reach.
It includes a host of ideas aimed at bolstering the income of cabbies who have waited nine years for a fare increase.
The cornerstone is a 25-percent increase in both the mileage and waiting times. Under the plan, the cost of entering a cab, known as the “flag-pull,” would remain at $3.25. But, the charge-per-mile would rise from $1.80 to $2.40, while the waiting time would go to 20 cents for every 24 seconds; now, that 20-cent fee is charged for every 36 seconds of wait time.
Chicago’s $13.80-fare for a five-mile ride with five minutes of waiting time currently ranks No. 32 among the nation’s largest cities, according to the website TaxiFareFinder. The proposed change would push Chicago into the top 10.
That’s not the only proposal to help drivers working marathon hours to eke out a meager living. The UTCC plan also would:
♦ Change the fares paid by residents of suburbs on Chicago’s borders; they would pay metere-and-a-half rates, instead of straight fares as they do now.
♦ Impose a $1 fee for all extra passengers — not just the first one. The current fee for the second extra rider and beyond is 50 cents. The charge would continue to be waived for extra passengers under age 12 and over 65.
♦ Alter rules for cabs waiting for downtown fares at O’Hare International Airport. Cabbies who are instead assigned a “short trip” to someplace closer to the airport currently can return to the head of the line if they are back within 40 minutes. The plan would increase that time limit to an hour.
♦ Cap at 20 percent the tiered lease rate hikes imposed by the City Council in 2012. In exchange for newer, and more fuel-efficient vehicles, Mayor Rahm Emanuel allowed owners to raise lease rates by 20-to-40 percent. But, UTCC officials contend that the cost of a new vehicle is recouped in the first year alone.
♦ Waive the $50 “re-inspection” fee charged to medallion owners whose cabs fail the first inspection.
♦ Roll back — from $750-to-$350 — the maximum fine that can be levied against cabdrivers for a host of violations that include traffic tickets, dirty cabs or rider complaints. The mayor’s reforms initially raised the maximum fine to $1,000, only to roll it back to $750, which the UTCC claims is “still too high.”
♦ Require complaints against drivers to be delivered to them by registered mail to avoid a host of default judgments against cabbies who do not receive the initial complaint.
♦ Impose the $4 tax that bankrolls McCormick Place and other convention activities only on departure from O’Hare and Midway Airports, instead of $2 on arrival and departure to make certain drivers recoup the fee from riders.
♦ Create a city-wide dispatch system that would require all cabs to carry a new app modeled after the one pioneered by ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.
Last month, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 (AFSCME) launched its own drive to organize cabbies by releasing the latest in a series of studies to highlight their financial plight.
It showed that Emanuel’s overhaul of the taxicab industry has snatched $7,531 out of the average cabdriver’s pocket, dropping annual income to $20,234, or just $5.40 an hour, a new study shows.
Chicago cab fares have been frozen since an 11.7-percent increase imposed by the City Council in 2005. The last increase before that — 16.6 percent — was approved in 2000 and tied to a controversial requirement that cabdrivers answer at least one radio call each day in underserved communities.
Emanuel’s 2012 reforms raised the lease rates drivers pay — by as much as 31 percent for the most fuel-efficient vehicles — while cabbies claim they walked away virtually empty-handed.
The mayor’s only concession to drivers was to make the $1 fuel surcharge permanent and to fold it into the cost of entering a cab, known as the “flag pull.”