Alderman demands City Council hearings on impact of ride hailing on taxicab industry

SHARE Alderman demands City Council hearings on impact of ride hailing on taxicab industry
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Ald. Pat Dowell wants City Council hearings on how ride-hailing companies have affected the taxi industry. | Getty Images

A South Side alderman is demanding City Council hearings to determine how to level the “uneven playing field” between taxicabs and ride-hailing companies that has caused medallion prices and taxdriver incomes to plummet.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) on Wednesday introduced a resolution co-signed by half the City Council.

It calls for the License Committee to examine the “business practices” of ride-hailing companies such as Uber, whose investors include Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s brother, and determine the impact of a year-old ordinance that cabbies contend perpetuates a double-standard that has allowed ride-hailing companies to siphon away cab business.

Dowell said she doesn’t know what the ultimate outcome will be. She simply knows the City Council needs to do something to solve a problem that threatens the very existence of the taxicab industry.

“It’s an unfair competition. This unfair system has had an impact on the value of taxicab medallions in Chicago. Perhaps we can level the playing field,” Dowell said.

“These [ride-hailing] companies do their own background checks. They don’t have the same training or oversight that cabdrivers have to submit to before they can drive. We need to look at maybe modifying the ride share ordinance to maybe address some of the problems we know are existing. The background checks. The license. The surge pricing. All the things they’re allowed to do that taxicab drivers can’t do.”

Uber spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said: “Since Uber first launched in Chicago, we’ve created thousands of job opportunities and generated tens of millions of dollars in total driver earnings. In addition, Uber offers safe, reliable rides to and from all neighborhoods, including those that have been underserved by taxi.

“We welcome any opportunity to discuss our ongoing work to improve communities and make transportation as reliable as running water for all Chicagoans.”The ordinance approved last year does not regulate ride-hailing fares or “surge-pricing” and does not restrict the number of companies, vehicles or drivers that could operate on Chicago streets.

It also created 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-hailing companies would be prohibited from picking up street fares 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 pickups can be accomplished in a manner that preserves security, public safety and the orderly flow of traffic; and . . . designated taxicab stands or loading zones.”

During the mayoral campaign, Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) accused Emanuel of political favoritism, pointing to the conflict posed by Hollywood super-agent Ari Emanuel’s investment in Uber.

Emanuel flatly denied the political favoritism charge after pushing through the ride-hailing ordinance that, the taxicab industry maintains, did not go nearly far enough.

Last month, Emanuel stepped in for the second time in a year to block Uber from moving in on cabdrivers’ turf at O’Hare and Midway airports.

It happened after Uber started an online petition to persuade City Hall to let UberX drivers make airport pickups.

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