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City is looking for even more cab drivers

Marie-Louise Silis Olive-Harvey College Thursday check out Taxi Driver Recruitment Day which  focused training applicatiprocess fill about 2000 cabdriver

Marie-Louise Sila is at Olive-Harvey College on Thursday to check out Taxi Driver Recruitment Day, which focused on the training and application process to fill about 2,000 cabdriver positions. | Al Podgorski~ Sun-Times

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Updated: March 10, 2013 6:25AM

Glance around the Loop, and it might not look like Chicago needs another taxi on the road.

But it’s a different story in Chicago’s neighborhoods, Jennifer Lipford, a spokeswoman for Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, said Thursday.

About 2,000 new taxi drivers are needed here, she said as Olive-Harvey College welcomed more than 100 people to its Taxi Driver Recruitment Day.

“We heard from passengers that they want cabs but they’re not finding them,” Lipford said.

Some cab drivers already on the road don’t agree.

“I think there are at least 1,000 too many taxis on the road,” said Javaid Ahmed, a driver for Blue Ribbon Taxi.

Lipford said there are about 12,500 public chauffeurs with active licenses to work 6,653 taxi medallions in Chicago, but many of those chauffeurs do not work 365 days a year, or 24 hours a day, and some are seasonal.

She said cab companies tell the city about 10 to 15 percent of their fleets aren’t being used, and the city would like to help their drivers find customers who aren’t downtown or waiting at the airports.

“The reality is, there’s a lot of business out there, but they’re not getting it,” Lipford said.

William Bundy, a driver affiliated with Carriage Cab Co., was among the presenters at the Olive-Harvey recruitment fair held in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of New Americans. The college offers a two-week chauffeur training program for $275.

Bundy encouraged the aspiring cab drivers to come up with a business plan and find a “niche market” as he has done by catering to the disabled community on the South Side.

“Don’t take it as a job,” said Bundy, who drives a wheelchair-accessible cab. “Take it as a business.”

North Side resident Marie-Louise Sila visited the fair with thoughts of becoming a cab driver. She said she likes the thought of having a job where she could be more independent. But she said she’d be more inclined to park her cab in front of McCormick Place and wait for customers as opposed to working the neighborhoods.

“I need to make money, period,” she said, adding that she wouldn’t drive in dangerous places.

Bundy said he resolves safety issues by serving regular clients. And he encourages other drivers to do the same.

“It’s underserved,” he said. “That’s why they call it an underserved market.”

Ahmed said he goes where riders take him — including neighborhoods on all sides of Chicago. But he said he’s not going to drive around one neighborhood looking for passengers forever.

“After driving approximately 45 minutes, if I don’t get a fare, then I leave,” Ahmed said.

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