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Some cabdrivers say no to working NATO weekend

Updated: May 19, 2012 8:43PM

Despite the influx of foreign dignitaries, a healthy chunk of one group of Chicago ambassadors — cabdrivers — are apparently taking a pass on the NATO Summit.

Mellissa Callahan, a veteran Chicago cabbie, said roughly 30 percent of her colleagues are choosing not to work because they don’t want the hassle of navigating road closures and frustrated passengers.

“It’s just gonna be inconvenient to get passengers where they need to go. Rather than deal with road closures, a lot of drivers are choosing not to work,” Callahan said, noting that many downtown employees took Friday off to avoid the summit.

“I’d like to take advantage of that. But there’s gonna be a lot of frustration. If we’re taking a student to Hyde Park and Lake Shore Drive is closed, it’ll take forever [and cost a fortune] to get there. People aren’t very understanding when there are road closures. They tend to blame the cabdrivers. I don’t want to deal with that frustration.”

She added, “We need to move people quickly. When we can’t move efficiently, it’s way too hard to make any money.”

Veteran cabdriver Ken Cooper said he plans to give it a try — at least for a while.

“If you go out and work and realize there are too many demonstrations or too much traffic, you go home. It all depends if you can make money or they can’t. That’s all it boils down to,” Cooper said.

Callahan said it would have been helpful if the Emanuel administration had provided “some sort of information guide or communication” to cabbies to let them no how to “better navigate” road closures tied to the summit.

Instead, there was “no communication between the city and the cabdrivers,” she said.

Jennifer Lipford, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, said cabbies who sign up for “public vehicle notices” from the city were directed to the websites of the NATO Host Committee and the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications for a rundown on road closures.

“We haven’t sent an email to cabdrivers about road closures, but that stuff has been in every paper every day,” Lipford said.

Despite the reluctance of some cabbies to work during the summit, Lipford said City Hall has received “no calls to say there aren’t enough cabs” in the downtown area or near McCormick Place where President Barack Obama and more than 60 world leaders will meet this weekend.

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