Ride-sharing giant Uber Technologies is forging ahead with plans to expand its regional headquarters and create 420 new jobs, confident that Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of a statewide ride-sharing bill will not be overturned.
The new jobs will be located in 56,000 square feet of space at 111 N. Canal St., a building that already houses Twitter and Gogo Wireless.
Regional General Manager Andrew Macdonald was asked whether the expansion would be called off if the IllinoisGeneral Assembly overrides the governor’s veto in November.
“We’re quite confident that legislators have taken notice of the support for ride sharing, just like Gov. Quinn did. So, we’re not making plans to change our growth here. We’re confident that our elected reps will stand up and recognize that and uphold Gov. Quinn’s veto,” Macdonald said.
And what if they don’t and the bill is overridden?
“If they don’t, like any business, we’ll make our plans on the go. But, we’re gonna continue to invest in the region here. Illinois has been a great place for us to do business,” Macdonald said.
Quinn said he’s determined to uphold his veto of the ride-sharing bill with help from some powerful friends of Uber.
“I got…either a text or a Tweet from [the Blackhawks] No. 88….and I’m looking forward to working with Patrick Kane to uphold my veto. He uses Uber and we want to make sure that folks who are using Uber are not inconvenienced by the fact that we’re holding back important technological opportunities and jobs for our state,” the governor said.
“So, we’ll be down there on the 19th of November thereabouts and we’ll put together a might majority in favor of what I did.”
State Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside), chief sponsor of the ride-sharing bill, is not so sure about that.
Noting that the bill passed the Il. House with 80 votes and got a “substantial” majority in the Senate, Zalewski predicted that the votes will be there for an override.
“This is a public safety issue. You have Uber-X drivers riding all over Northeastern Illinois who are not subject to proper background checks and don’t have enough insurance. We need to make sure riders are safe,” Zalewski said.
Quinn has argued that ride-sharing regulations should be imposed at the local level. But, Zalewski argued that Chicago’s ordinance does not go far enough.
“The city changes the formula for who has to have a chauffeurs license so Uber and Lyft can manipulate who drives when to always make sure their drivers are part-time. We didn’t feel this was healthy. Not when you have Uber-X drivers clearly doing this full-time,” Zalewski said.
Zalewski scoffed at the suggestion that an override of the governor’s veto could cost Chicago 420 new jobs.
“Uber is an innovative, strong company that wants to grow in Chicago. They just feel that government regulation will interfere with their business model and make them less successful than they are now. I disagree. They’ll be just fine,” he said.
Last month, Quinn vetoed a state-wide ride-sharing bill, clearing the way for Chicago’s less rigid ride-sharing regulations championed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to take effect.
The ride-sharing industry whose investors include the mayor’s brother was pleased. The taxicab industry, its City Council allies and a union representing cabdrivers were not.
That’s because the ordinance does not regulate ride-sharing fares or “surge-pricing” and does not restrict the number of companies, vehicles or drivers that could operate on Chicago streets.
It also creates a two-tier system that allows part-time drivers to escape rigid screening. And it opens the door to the lucrative airport market that UberX once tried to enter illegally, only to be stopped by the city.
Ride-sharing companies would be prohibited from picking up street hails or riders at McCormick Place, O’Hare and Midway airports “unless the commissioner determines, in duly promulgated rules, following consultation with the commissioner of aviation, that such pick ups can be accomplished in a manner that preserves security, public safety and the orderly flow of traffic; and . . . designated taxicab stands or loading zones.”