Help save ridesharing in Chicago

Help save ridesharing in Chicago

Chicago aldermen, some of whom receive financial support from the taxicab industry, are looking to burden Uber and Lyft drivers with expensive chauffer’s licenses.

Uber and Lyft provide millions of safe, inexpensive rides to Chicagoans every month – a big reason why ridesharing is so affordable and is growing so rapidly is because companies offer an inexpensive and efficient sign-up process.

Unfortunately, members of Chicago City Council moved March 14 to shackle drivers using platforms such as Uber and Lyft with a chauffer’s license requirement that has burdened traditional taxi drivers for decades.

This license costs $500, and would be a huge obstacle for aspiring drivers, who are often Chicagoans in serious need of work and income.

“It’s time and money,” said 72-year-old Chicago Uber driver Jim Evans of the proposed licensing process. Evans says he already holds a chauffer’s license, but that it would be “very tough” for many drivers to obtain one.

“Most people who drive for Uber drive temporarily for extra income, and to go through all the hassle for that, it’s ridiculous,” Evans said. “It’s money for getting fingerprints taken, going to the doctor and the classes.”

Evans is right. The money City Council would force rideshare drivers to pay for a chauffeur’s license could instead be used for groceries, gas bills and diapers. In addition to the added costs, forcing rideshare drivers to become licensed also adds a significant time barrier, as Chicago’s cumbersome city permitting process often takes weeks.

Public demand in 2015 prompted City Council to finally allowing rideshare pickups at O’Hare and Midway airports, as well as McCormick Place and Navy Pier. But the licensing proposal would likely kill ridesharing in Chicago as residents know it.

So why are aldermen throwing their support behind shackling rideshare drivers? Perhaps it’s because they need to deliver a return on an investment.

More than a dozen aldermen took a total of $51,500 from the Illinois Transportation Trade Association Political Action Committee in 2015, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections, 13. The PAC’s purpose is to “garner support for the Illinois taxicab industry.” It donated an additional $10,000 to the City Council’s Progressive Caucus.

The major supporters of the Illinois Transportation Trade Association PAC include companies that make money off of the traditional taxi system, such as medallion brokers and Yellow Cab, which have combined to give the PAC more than $300,000 since 2014, according to the PAC’s quarterly financial reports.

Alderman Ed Burke, 14th Ward, who supported a similar licensing proposal in October 2015, took $10,000 from the PAC in 2015. The previous year, he took $10,000 from the owners of Dispatch Taxi. Allegations that Burke has given preferential treatment to the taxi industry for his own benefit stretch back decades.

“It’s supposed to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people,” Evans said. “And you can’t get more ‘of the people’ than Uber.”

To stand with rideshare drivers, and against the cronyism of the traditional taxi cartel, you can sign Uber’s petition to save Chicago ridesharing here.

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