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Emanuel’s ride-sharing ordinance approved by City Council

Updated: June 30, 2014 12:32PM

A divided City Council on Wednesday approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to fill the regulatory vacuum that has allowed ride-sharing companies to siphon business from taxicabs amid warnings that it’s so weak as to render costly taxi medallions “worthless.”

The ride-sharing industry whose investors include the mayor’s brother was pleased with the ordinance approved by a 34-10 vote.

The taxicab industry, its City Council allies and a union representing cabdrivers was not. That’s because the ordinance that takes effect in 90 days does not regulate ride-sharing fares or “surge-pricing” and does not restrict the number of companies, vehicles or drivers that could operate on Chicago streets.

It also creates 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 tried to enter illegally last month, only to be stopped by the city.

Ride-sharing companies would be prohibited from picking up street hails 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 pick ups can be accomplished in a manner that preserves security, public safety and the orderly flow of traffic; and . . . designated taxicab stands or loading zones.”

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) was so incensed by the double standard, he tried and failed to send the ordinance back to committee for a further re-write. The motion failed by a vote of 36-9.

“This ordinance will hit the hardworking men and women who drive cabs in our city. These men and women are the ambassadors of this great city. They drive tourists around,” said Beale, chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee.

“We asked them to get licensed. We asked them to get insurance. Yet we allow a company to come in that has the technology savvy to create an app,” Beale said. “They’re not paying $360,000 for a medallion. Those medallions will be useless if this ordinance passes.”

Emanuel countered that he carefully crafted “one of the most comprehensive ordinances in the nation” to regulate a new industry that has provided a popular transportation alternative.

“There’s a criminal background check that didn’t exist before. There’s a vehicle inspection that didn’t exist before. There’s training required that didn’t exist before. Those are a step in the right direction,” the mayor said.

“We had a good debate, thorough discussion. And we now have the type of comprehensive regulatory architecture that had not existed this morning. . . . This is not at the expense of the taxi industry. They have regulations. . . . Given that this industry is here, we have to set a set of rules and regulations that enhance public safety.”

Ald. “Proco” Joe Moreno (1st) said, “This is not about cabdrivers. It’s about medallion owners. Let’s not do their dirty work.”


Twitter: @fspielman

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