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Cabbies want 22 percent fare hike, vomit clean-up tax

Cabs line up  outside Merchandise Mart before Rahm Emanuel held press conference about taxi cab regulations.  |

Cabs line up outside the Merchandise Mart before Rahm Emanuel held a press conference about taxi cab regulations. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: January 21, 2012 8:10AM

Chicago taxicab fares would rise by 22 percent — and passengers who use credit cards would pay a $1.50-a-ride “convenience fee” — under a proposal quietly filed by cabdrivers. If the City Council grants the petition signed by 1,500 cabbies, the cost of a five-mile ride with a five-mile waiting time would rise from $12.72 to $15.50. But that’s not the only hit passengers would take.

Cabbies also want the city to impose a $1 fee for every additional passenger, a $50 fee for fraudulent credit card transactions and a $75 “cleanup fee” for inebriated passengers who lose their lunch in the back of a cab.

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 and tied to a controversial requirement that cabdrivers answer at least one radio call each day in underserved communities.

Veteran cabdriver Thaddeus Budzynski, who spearheaded the latest petition drive, said it’s no accident that the signatures were filed with the city clerk days after Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed changing virtually everything about the taxicab industry but the pocketbook issue that matters most to drivers.

“The city is complaining we’re working too many hours. We wouldn’t be working all these hours if they had given us fare increases in the past. After working 12 hours a day and paying operating expenses, we’re averaging $4.38 an hour,” Budzynski said Monday.

“We’ve been trying to get a fare increase for six years. In 2007, they raised our fines by 33 percent after we were denied a fare increase. They tell us we’re ambassadors of the city, but we’re not getting treated like ambassadors. We want to make a comfortable living.”

Rosemary Krimbel, commissioner of the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, and Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Transportation and Public Way, refused to comment on the drivers’ petition.

If the signatures are verified, the Transportation Committee will have 60 days to hold public hearings on a fare increase.

Budzynski justified the credit card fee on grounds that drivers who accept plastic get charged a 5 percent processing fee and lose time and fares doing it. Now, the city is mandating credit card machines in all cabs.

As for the clean-up fee, he said, “I had a girl stick her head out the window and vomit all over the side of the car while I was going down the street. We pick up people on Friday and Saturday nights who drink and vomit in the cab. We have to clean that up. We have to pull our cabs on the side. Limo drivers charge $200 for cleanup. All we’re asking for is $75.”

Last week, Emanuel proposed sweeping reforms that would pave the way for cabbies to drive newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles, be yanked off the road more quickly for dangerous driving and spend no more than 12 straight hours on the road.

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