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Uber’s Chicago drivers earned $210M through August, company says

a woman gets in an Uber car

Ride-hailing giant Uber says its Chicago drivers earned an average of $7,000 in the first eight months of this year. | AP file photo

Uber’s 30,000 Chicago drivers — the majority of whom live on the South and West Sides — together collected $210 million in earnings during the first eight months of this year, the company reported Thursday.

The ride-hailing giant released the Chicago drivers’ earnings, which average $7,000 apiece, as the company faces the possibility of new regulations and higher fees in Chicago and loss of its business license in London.

Uber, whose investors include Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s brother Hollywood super-agent Ari Emanuel, also reported 44 percent of its Chicago trips started or ended in South and West Side neighborhoods, where taxicab service has been sporadic at best. Last year, it was 42 percent.

“Uber Chicago is proud to provide flexible earning opportunities and access to safe and affordable rides for Chicagoans in every community, especially in neighborhoods that were previously underserved by taxi,” Uber Chicago general manager Marco McCottry said in a news release.

“Uber drivers who live in Chicago are earning hundreds of millions, and those dollars are being invested directly in our communities that need it the most.”

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), City Council champion for the taxicab industry, said the Uber figures would have no impact on his plan to rein in surge pricing and require ride-hailing drivers to be fingerprinted.

“This has nothing to do with money. This has everything to do with public safety,” Beale said.

Beale, chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, also urged Emanuel to consider doubling the 52-cents-a-ride surcharge on Uber and Lyft to raise sorely needed revenue.

“If they’re saying their drivers are making that kind of money, how much money is the company making?” the alderman said.

Uber and Lyft have long maintained that a background check based on FBI fingerprinting would discriminate against minorities who are “far more likely to have an interaction with the criminal justice system” — and often for minor, nonviolent offenses where the charges are dropped but the record has not been expunged.

Beale has ridiculed that “sky-is-falling” warning and dared Uber and Lyft to “walk away from billions of dollars.”

He has portrayed fingerprinting as pivotal to riders’ safety because it’s the “one way to make sure a person is who they say they are.”

Public safety also was cited by London regulators in deciding to not renew Uber’s license to operate there, where its app is used by 3.5 million passengers and 40,000 drivers. The company’s new CEO apologized this week in a public attempt to keep its license.

By revealing the $319 million in projected 2017 driver earnings in Chicago, Uber is essentially daring black and Hispanic aldermen to take that money out of the pockets of their constituents.

Emanuel is putting together a list of “targeted” tax and fee hikes to plug a $259 million hole in his 2018 budget.

But he needs to be careful to avoid getting caught up in the furor over County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s sweetened beverage tax.

Uber and Lyft are an easy target. That’s why there’s behind-the-scenes talk of doubling the per-ride surcharge to $1.