Airport pickups by ride-hailing services to start by Thanksgiving

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Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft will be able to pick up people at Chicago’s airports starting next week. | AP file photo

Ride-hailing companies will be able to pick up passengers from Chicago’s two airports.

That’s just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the busiest travel period of the year.

Under new regulations announced Monday, the city will allow ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft to pick up passengers in designated areas of the arrivals gates of both airports, according to a statement from the city Monday night. The regulations will be subject to a 10-day public comment period. They may then be revised, based on that public feedback, before they take effect, but a city spokesman said Tuesday they would be in place in time to allow airport pickups before Thanksgiving.

Under a deal backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and approved last week, drivers for Uber and similar services will not be required to obtain chauffeur licenses in order to make pickups at the airports; taxi drivers had hoped to put that requirement in place.

Instead, Emanuel agreed to charge 2 cents more per ride in the meantime, for a total fee of 52 cents. Some of the money would be used to help cabdrivers defray the cost of getting a chauffeur license, which is their responsibility. Those licenses can cost as much as $500.

Ride-hailing companies have been allowed to drop off passengers at O’Hare, Midway and McCormick Place, but they must leave empty. Pickups are forbidden.

In exchange for the lucrative access, Uber and other ride-hailing services would pay a $5 surcharge every time they pickup or drop off passengers at O’Hare, Midway, McCormick Place or Navy Pier. The new tax is expected to generate $30 million. Cabs pay a $4 ground transportation tax, but only after airport pickups.

The mayor’s plan also gives ride-hailing services and taxis a 50-percent credit — up to 15 percent of their total trips — for pickups and drop-offs in underserved Chicago neighborhoods.

Uber’s investors include Mayor Emanuel’s brother, Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel. But the mayor has denied any favoritism. Earlier this year, the mayor stepped in for a second time in a year to block Uber from moving in at the airports. That happened after Uber started an online petition to persuade City Hall to let its drivers make airport pickups.

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