Watch: Chicago cops impound Lyft car for picking up passenger near O’Hare
Besides what appears to be retaliation against a citizen for exercising his First Amendment rights, the incident reveals the absurdity of Chicago’s ban on airport pickups for popular services such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar.
When Chicago resident Kevin Stover woke up in Denver on Sept. 2, he never thought he’d be in the back of an undercover Chicago squad car by 10 p.m. that night.
But Stover was unlucky enough to witness Chicago’s ban on airport pickups for rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft firsthand – a ban that city officials are now proposing to end in exchange for the nation’s highest taxes on ridesharing.
Stover said his flight landed at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport at 9 p.m. Out of habit, he pulled out his phone and opened the Lyft app to hail a ride. But per Chicago rules, the app denied his request.
But once he was a considerable distance from the terminal, Stover was able to hail a ride and waited. While doing so, Stover said two plainclothes police officers approached him and asked what he was doing.
Stover said he gave curt responses, and when his ride pulled over a few yards ahead, he bid the officers goodnight. But the officers followed the car, put on flashing lights and pulled Stover over.
Stover recorded footage of the incident, which he posted to YouTube.
“Sir you can record me all you want. … [But] because you’re recording … I’m going to have to issue the [inaudible] and impound the vehicle.”
Impounding the car would carry a $2,400 fine, according to the officer.
The video cuts out abruptly after another officer accessed Stover’s phone and stopped the recording. The viewer can briefly see the policeman’s face.
Stover was then allegedly offered a deal from the first officer: delete the video footage, and Stover and the driver could both go home. Stover refused. In turn, the three officers on the scene refused to let Stover retrieve his belongings from the trunk of the vehicle until they had arrived at the police department, according to Stover.
Stover had no choice but to ride back to the department in the back of the police vehicle along with the Lyft driver.
“The kid was very, very upset,” Stover said. “That’s a bunch of money to me at 30 [years old]. I can’t imagine being a college kid and losing that kind of money.”
The Lyft driver, who claims in the video to be a 21-year-old DePaul University student paying his way through school by driving, could not be reached. According to Stover, the car was impounded.
Besides what appears to be retaliation against a citizen for exercising his First Amendment rights, this incident reveals the absurdity of Chicago’s ban on airport pickups for popular services such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar.
Demand for these services is undeniable. Uber spokesperson Brooke Anderson said that in the first two weeks of September alone, 80,000 people opened the Uber app on their smartphones to get a ride from O’Hare or Midway airports.
After a brief scare from aldermen proposing that rideshare drivers picking up customers at Chicago airports should be required to hold chauffer’s licenses, City Council seems to have settled on allowing rideshare drivers into airport pickup lanes. The cost? The nation’s highest rideshare tax, at 52 cents per ride, a $5 surcharge on every pickup and drop-off at the airports, and city debt checks.
Traditional taxi companies have cried foul, claiming the city has given rideshare drivers the keys to the castle. But instead of lobbying to shackle competition, taxi drivers would be wiser to attack the byzantine medallion system that has long depressed earnings for taxi drivers. Playing dirty against competition may be another reason traditional cab companies are losing business to better services.
“This is America,” Stover said. “I don’t believe we should allow politicians to decide where we can and can’t spend our money.”