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Cabbies demand equal regulation of Uber, other ride-hailing services

Chicago taxi drivers marched outside City Hall Wednesday, demanding that the city regulate ride-sharing services like Uber the same as cab companies. | Patrick Judge/For the Sun-Times

Hundreds of Chicago taxi drivers marched in protest Wednesday outside City Hall demanding that ride-hailing services such as Uber be financially regulated by the city the same as cabs.

The protest was organized by Cab Drivers United, a union formed last month as Local 2500 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The union, at a news conference outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office, claimed the city is passing up $65 million in potential revenue by not strictly regulating ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft.

“It’s time for Uber to play by the rules or take their operations elsewhere,” union official Tracey Abman said.

They arrived at that $65 million figure by estimating what the city would collect if Uber drivers went through the same hoops as city cab drivers, including regular vehicle inspections and city chauffeur licensing, as well as paying a per-vehicle ground transportation tax.

That extra revenue, they noted, could help Emanuel rein in an expected $500 million property-tax increase.

“Stop handing millions of dollars to billion-dollar corporations,” veteran cab driver Cheryl Miller said. “Keep our rent and property taxes affordable. The city deserves better.”

In an emailed statement Uber spokesperson Brooke Anderson said the company serves neighborhoods the taxi industry ignores. Over half of all Uber trips in Chicago “begin or end in an area that’s underserved by taxi and public transportation,” she said.

Uber also said it has recruited more than 20,000 Chicago drivers in the past two years. The company plans to recruit 10,000 more drivers this year on the South and West Sides.

The mayor’s office issued a statement later Wednesday saying Emanuel has “a strong record of reforms” that have helped “create more transit options for residents, and ensure a level playing field between taxis, liveries and rideshare vehicles. … These reforms have lowered the financial burden of drivers while modernizing and strengthening the industry.”

The Sun-Times recently reported the mayor’s plans to include a $1-a-ride fee on ride-hailing services in his revenue package. Uber released a statement last week urging Mayor Emanuel to reconsider. Some cabbies were underwhelmed by the proposal.

Among Uber’s investors is Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, the mayor’s brother.