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Uber touts poll showing Chicagoans oppose licensing ordinance

A man leaves the headquarters of Uber in San Francisco in 2014. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

A ride-hailing giant whose investors include Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s brother is touting results of a new poll that shows Chicagoans overwhelmingly oppose plans to license Uber and Lyft drivers to level the playing field with cabdrivers.

The April 21 poll conducted for Uber by “We Ask America” concluded that 69 percent of the 600 people surveyed “opposed the concept of a city ordinance that would greatly restrict Uber in order to save” a taxicab industry fighting for survival in the ride-hailing era.

The poll further showed that 71 percent of those surveyed and 97 percent of women favor ride-hailing over taxis.

And 76 percent of those questioned do not believe that cabs will meet the needs of chronically under-served communities if Uber were to suddenly stop operating in Chicago, as the company has threatened to do if the City Council approves the proposed ordinance.

The poll further concluded that 62 percent of those surveyed had a “less favorable opinion” of Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, when told that Beale was “sponsoring the anti-Uber legislation.”

Beale could not be reached for comment. Other sources accused Uber of conducting a so-called “push poll” — with questions worded in such a way as to elicit a desired response.

Beale’s still-pending ordinance would require Uber and Lyft drivers to get city chauffeur’s licenses, be fingerprinted by a city-approved vendor and get their vehicles inspected by City Hall.

A minimum of five percent of the total fleet of both companies would have to be accessible to customers with disabilities. And no ride-hailing vehicle could remain on the streets of Chicago that is more than six years old.

Salvage, rebuilt and junk vehicles would be expressly prohibited.

Lyft and Uber, whose drivers owe the city $15 million in unpaid parking tickets, red-light and speed camera fines and water bills, would also be required to immediately settle those debts to renew their operating licenses.

Emanuel is lobbying hard to kill Beale’s ordinance on grounds that it could stifle competition that consumers have demanded.

For years, cabdrivers and their City Council allies have accused Emanuel of favoring Uber, whose investors include Hollywood super-agent Ari Emanuel.

But Emanuel has insisted he has only consumers in mind.

“Everything we’ve done — not just between taxis and ride-sharing, but in the sense of Divvy and investing in public transportation — is to give commuters safe, reliable and comfortable choices,” the mayor said on the day Beale introduced the ordinance.

“We made sure there was competition, choice and a level playing field. It’s not about the industry. My view is, ‘What are the commuters and consumers looking for?’ They’re looking for choice.”

The mayor noted then that he has “made some changes to help the taxi industry” by implementing an Uber-style app, folding the $1 gasoline surcharge into the flag-pull, imposing a 15 percent fare increase and tacking a 50-cents-a-ride surcharge onto fares paid with credit cards.

“The peep hole that I look through is, are the consumers getting something safe and reliable. And I’m clear we have choice. We have competitive choice in Chicago. And I don’t refer to these as baby steps. They have leveled the playing field.”