Ride-sharing un-fare to licensed cabbies

By Managing Editor

I’ve always been too nervous to use ride-share services like Lyft or uberX. Imagining someone in sweatpants chauffeuring me across town in the passenger seat of their 1997 Dodge Neon gives me anxiety—the thought of engaging in inevitable small talk alone makes my palms sweat. In most situations, calling up one of these services for a ride from an average Joe is less expensive than shelling out the regular fare for a taxi, but the savings don’t compensate for the imminent awkwardness of riding shotgun with some stranger.

While getting a lift from a random dude might be an uncomfortable thought, it’s more discomforting that these ride-sharing services shortchange licensed cab drivers who drive all day to practically break even after paying the exorbitant costs of renting their vehicles and filling their gas tanks, while rogue cabbies are racking up big bucks—a point of contention the city and its taxi drivers are seeking to turn around.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose administration has long been supportive of ride-share companies, introduced an ordinance to the City Council Feb. 3 that would impose taxes and driver restrictions on the currently unregulated businesses. In addition to requiring drivers to undergo drug tests, criminal background checks and vehicle inspections, the ordinance stipulates that companies would have to pay an annual $25,000 license fee and $25 per driver. The ordinance is long overdue, but the provisions pale in comparison to the wringer the city puts cab companies through.

A taxi medallion costs $300,000—and that’s just to get a car on the street. According to a Feb. 6 Associated Press report, Chicago’s cab industry contributes an annual $24 million to the city through taxes and fees. Addressing the unfair discrepancy, major cab companies have banded together and filed a lawsuit against the city to increase taxes for ride-share services that create an “exclusionary, elitist taxi system,” according to attorney Michael Shakman.

Emanuel’s proposal unfairly favors faux chauffeurs who cruise for extra cash over licensed drivers who depend on their 16-hour shifts to support their families, and it’s time to put the brakes on that logic.