Chicago's taxi industry could see big changes

December 12, 2011

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(WBEZ/Jennifer Brandel)
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Commissioner Rosemary Krimbel said the changes will aid city tourism and convention industries.

The City of Chicago is introducing broad changes to its taxi industry regulations.

For one, the city is proposing new safety measures. Right now, drivers can work as many hours as they want, even if they're exhausted and shouldn't be driving. But under the proposed new rules, drivers can't be on shift for more than 12 hours. Cab companies will now have to monitor how long drivers are on duty, and could be fined up to $5,000 dollars if they're not in compliance.

Teklu Negussi owns his own cab and is sometimes on the road for more than 12 hours between running errands - like picking his kids up from school, and working his shift.

"How do they know how many hours? I could be working 8 hours, but I'm out like, more than that," Negussi said.

A spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel said they're still figuring out how the city will enforce that rule. But it might hinge on another proposed addition to taxi regulation: GPS systems. The city is calling to install them in every cab to "improve application development for peole looking to hail a taxi in their neighborhood," according to a statement from the city. But an Emanuel spokesman said he wouldn't rule out using GPS to enforce new regulations.

The city is also proposing incentives for taxi companies to get more fuel efficient and wheelchair accessible cars. It's targeting more fuel efficient fleets by allowing companies to lease out newer cars with better gas mileage at a higher rate to drivers. The city believes drivers will want to use those cars because they'll end up saving lots of money at gas stations during their shifts.

Another addition to the industry will be mandated credit card machines in the backseat of every cab, so passengers never need to give their card to drivers.

The taxi ordinance is expected to be proposed at the City Council meeting on Wednesday.