The ride-sharing company Uber began an online petition Monday to persuade city officials to allow UberX drivers to pick people up from O’Hare and Midway Airports.
UberX currently offers rides to Chicago’s two airports, but pickups — one of the last domains exclusive to taxis and limos — are off limits.
For the privilege, cabbies and limo drivers must pay a $4 fee that supports the city’s convention industry.
Uber spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said UberX drivers would absolutely pay the same tax for permission to pick up airport passengers.
UberX cars are driven by average citizens who, after undergoing background checks, offer rides in their personal vehicles at rates that are often cheaper than taxis.
“Opening up Chicago’s airports to ride sharing would help end long taxi lines while increasing driver earnings and revenue for the city,” Anderson said. “Chicago is a world-class city that leads the nation in innovation, so increasing transportation choices at our city’s airports is a natural next step.”
Uber also offers an Uber Black, which is allowed to pick up at Chicago’s airports, but the service is more expensive because it offers only luxury cars, licensed livery drivers are behind the wheel and they are required to pay the $4 tax imposed by the city.
Passengers have taken to Internet forums and social media to complain about long and inefficient taxi lines and offer creative tips on how to secure an UberX ride home after a long flight.
Some travelers will ride the CTA Blue Line for one stop in order to meet an Uber driver in an area outside the no-pickup zone.
Others try to skirt the regulations by ordering an Uber pickup just outside the airport zone and then calling the driver to see if he or she would break the rules and offer curbside service at an airport terminal — a violation that could result in fines and towing.
Major cities that allow both pickups and drop-offs at airports include San Francisco, Denver, Nashville, Indianapolis and Houston. Chicago passed a ride-sharing ordinance last year that regulates the industry.
Cheryl Miller, 54, a Chicago cab driver for 20 years, thinks Uber drivers should be held to the same standards as cab drivers if they want the same access to airport passengers.
“I think that if the city wants to allow UberX and Lyft and other ride-share drivers to pick up at airports that they should have to meet all the requirements of licensed public chauffeurs like cab drivers do,” Miller said.