Chicago passes new rules on Uber and Lyft

Chicago passes new rules on Uber and Lyft

The city will require rideshare drivers to complete an online course before hitting the road, and will allow ridesharing platforms such as Uber and Lyft to continue conducting their own background checks.

After months of heated debate, Chicago City Council on June 22 passed rules on ridesharing platforms that are miles away from a previous proposal, which threatened to drive Uber and Lyft out of the city.

But the 36-12 City Council vote does mean rideshare drivers must acquire a special chauffer’s license, which can be attained through an online course and must be renewed yearly. Additionally, drivers may not use a vehicle that is more than 6 years old, unless they submit to semi-annual vehicle testing. Drivers must also display a sign that lets passengers know they can call 311 to report complaints.

The new ordinance also removes drug-testing and physical-exam requirements for rideshare drivers, taxi drivers, horse-drawn carriage operators and pedicab operators seeking licensure. Should a customer file a complaint, it allows the city’s license commissioner to request those tests from the driver in question.

The new licensing scheme will certainly be a burden to many Chicagoans who make a living through ridesharing. Many of these restrictions are simply more unnecessary hoops Chicago residents must jump through to become entrepreneurs.

However, the substitute ordinance passed June 22 is a welcome alternative to a previous version of the ordinance, which would have required fingerprinting and drug testing for every potential rideshare driver.

The proposal to require fingerprinting of rideshare drivers and a disabled-accessible vehicle mandate have both been put on hold for at least six months.

The new ordinance also eliminates the city’s distinction between Class A and Class B transportation network providers. The Class A license was reserved for rideshare companies whose average driver used the service for less than 20 hours a week. The city required a Class B license for rideshare services where the average driver was operating for more than 20 hours a week.

The ordinance reduces city fees for Class B licensees to the levels paid by Class A licensees. The per-ride fee was reduced to 40 cents from 80 cents, and the fee for pickups and drop-offs from the city’s airports, McCormick Place and Navy Pier was reduced to $5.40 from $5.80.

Much of the discussion surrounding new regulations for Uber and Lyft has centered on leveling the playing field between ridesharing and traditional taxis.

But if Chicago politicians are truly concerned about driver fairness, they should take the lead of Evanston, Ill., and look at ways to reduce the regulatory and fee burden on taxi drivers, rather than piling on new restrictions.

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