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Alderman proposes 50 cent surcharge when cab riders pay with plastic

Taxicab riders who have already endured a 15 percent fare increase might get hit again to the tune of 50 cents a ride if they pay with plastic.

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, wants to help cabdrivers struggling to survive in the Uber age.

“The cab industry asked me to submit something that will basically be a budget-neutral item for them. . . . [T]hey’re losing thousands of dollars every day being charged by the credit card industry for using the credit card [machine] in the back,” said Beale, who introduced the ordinance during the City Council meeting Wednesday.

“Adding an additional 50 cents for credit card transactions would be a budget neutral item for them to where they won’t have to absorb that additional cost.”

The surcharge will not be “budget neutral” from cab riders, who have been flocking to ride-hailing services like Uber.

Still, Beale made no apologies.

“We were trying to put money back in the cabdrivers’ pocket. And this was another avenue where we saw money coming out of their pocket,” he said.

“This is a move to . . . level the playing field. . . . If you use your credit card, they were being hit. It’s unfortunate, but this is a move that needs to be corrected.”

Won’t a 50 cent surcharge make that exodus to ride-hailing companies even worse?

“I doubt it. . . . When people use their credit cards, they tip better,” he said.

Emanuel refused to comment on the proposed credit card surcharge.

Last fall, the mayor defended his decision to give cabdrivers a 15 percent fare increase but hand ride-hailing companies the lucrative right to make pickups at O’Hare and Midway airports, McCormick Place and Navy Pier.

Cabdrivers accused the mayor of giving away the store to Uber, the ride-hailing giant whose investors include Hollywood super-agent Ari Emanuel, the mayor’s brother.

They argued that the 15 percent fare hike they spent 10 years demanding was small change compared with the mother lode of airport and convention business they stand to lose.

Emanuel countered that his goal was not to decimate an already-wounded taxicab industry, but to strengthen it, and more important, to give Chicago consumers the choices they demand.

“I’m not giving it to them. I’m not giving it to Uber and Lyft. I’m making sure that the customers in the city of Chicago and its visitors have choice,” Emanuel said.

“Taxi drivers get up to a $10,000 [a year] pay increase — exactly what they’ve been asking for for years.. . . Things that riders for Uber and Lyft wanted they get, but they have to pay a bigger share on taxes than they’ve ever paid. And our customers — both in the city and visitors to the city — now have choice that they never had before. I consider that a win-win across the system.”

The proposal for a 50 cent surcharge on cab fares paid by credit card comes at a time when the city is attempting to market an Uber-style universal app for taxicab rides.