Taxi group unveils plan to boost fares, fees to help drivers’ plight
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter July 21, 2014 11:57AM
A taxi group on Monday outlined a plan to raise some fares and fees to help the plight of drivers, who they say have lost thousands of dollars in income thanks to changes imposed by the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. | Sun-Times File Photo
Updated: August 23, 2014 6:14AM
Mileage and waiting times that drive up Chicago taxicab fares would rise by 25 percent under a 10-point plan proposed Monday to put more money into the pockets of struggling cabbies.
“We’re trying to fix a broken taxi industry. Drivers are not making enough money and they see the city and big companies using us like an ATM machine . . . and freezing fares for nine years,” said Peter Enger, secretary of the United Taxidrivers Community Council.
“The taxi industry is losing drivers because of lack of income and over-regulation. ”
Three months ago, the United Taxidrivers Community Council signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Taxi Workers Alliance, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, hoping to unionize Chicago cabdrivers and bolster their political clout.
To do that, the UTCC must double its members — from 500 to more than 1,000.
The plan unveiled Monday might make that goal easier. It includes ideas aimed at bolstering the income of cabbies who have waited nine years for a fare increase.
The cornerstone is a 25-percent hike in both mileage and waiting fees. Under the plan, the cost of entering a cab, known as the “flag-pull,” would remain at $3.25. But the charge-per-mile would rise from $1.80 to $2.40, while waiting would cost 20 cents for every 24 seconds; now, that 20-cent fee is charged every 36 seconds of wait time.
That’s not the only proposal to help drivers. Among other things, the UTCC plan also would:
◆ Change the fares paid by residents of suburbs on Chicago’s borders; they would pay meter-and-a-half rates, instead of straight fares as they do now.
◆ Impose a $1 fee for all extra passengers — not just the first one. The current fee for the second extra rider and beyond is 50 cents. The charge would continue to be waived for extra passengers under age 12 and over 65.
◆ Alter rules for cabs waiting for downtown fares at O’Hare. Cabbies who are instead assigned a “short trip” closer to the airport can go to the head of the line if they return within 40 minutes. The plan would increase that time limit to an hour.
Chicago cab fares have been frozen since an 11.7 percent increase imposed by the City Council in 2005.
The last increase before that — 16.6 percent — was approved in 2000.