WBEZ | taxi http://www.wbez.org/tags/taxi Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Illinois House moves to rein in ridesharing http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-house-moves-rein-ridesharing-110011 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Rideshare-legislation.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois lawmakers took a step Thursday toward imposing rules on popular ridesharing services that have come under particular scrutiny in the City of Chicago. Despite receiving thousands of e-mailed petitions overnight from supporters of Lyft and Sidecar urging them to vote against <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Flegislation%2Ffulltext.asp%3FDocName%3D09800HB4075ham003%26GA%3D98%26SessionId%3D85%26DocTypeId%3DHB%26LegID%3D77989%26DocNum%3D4075%26GAID%3D12%26Session%3D&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHJkILW6HuQSYOmvH2W08D1X1kv7w">House Bill 4075</a>, House legislators voted overwhelmingly (<a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Filga.gov%2Flegislation%2Fvotehistory%2F98%2Fhouse%2F09800HB4075_04102014_024000T.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGoWEKnNfNCts1Fl2_xQZJgosffqw">80-26</a>) in favor of regulations.</p><p>Uber, Lyft and Sidecar started offering smartphone apps in the Chicago area in the last two years, aimed at helping regular people use their personal vehicles for hire. The House bill, backed by representatives of Chicago&rsquo;s taxi industry, originally took a broad, restrictive approach, requiring those drivers to comply with many of the same rules as taxi drivers on issues of licensing and safety checks. The bill that ultimately passed was touted by its sponsor, Michael Zalewski (D-23), as a &ldquo;compromise bill,&rdquo; combining input from both the taxi industry and Uber.</p><p>&ldquo;Nothing in this bill is going to shut down these apps,&rdquo; Zalewski said, minutes before the roll call. &ldquo;We want them to thrive, we want them to do well. However, it&rsquo;s our duty to protect our constituents.&rdquo;</p><p>State lawmakers have, in recent weeks, raised red flags over <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Fstate-legislators-probe-rideshare-insurance-109857&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGo3KvYNiEAn8hJorLnRP8GtOztGg">insurance concerns</a> with ridesharing services, as well as the propriety of entrusting background checks and drug testing of drivers to the private companies. The bill that House members passed imposes different requirements based on how much time drivers spend behind the wheel for the services.</p><p>Those who average fewer than eighteen hours per week would largely remain under the oversight of the private companies. But drivers who average more than eighteen hours per week would be subjected to many of the same rules and oversight as taxi drivers in Illinois. The bill would require them to obtain public chauffeur licenses, commercial registration plates for their vehicles, and fulfill inspection and age requirements set by the city or local government in which they operate.</p><p>Zalewski told WBEZ that Uber&rsquo;s lobbyist in Springfield, attorney Michael Kasper, supported the idea of bifurcating drivers into different regulatory categories depending on how much time they work. &ldquo;I can only negotiate with who Uber tells me to negotiate with,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;and their representatives were willing to negotiate on this point.&rdquo;</p><p>But almost immediately after the bill passed, Uber denied that it was consulted in the crafting of the bill. &ldquo;Uber has not signed off on a proposal that bifurcates drivers,&rdquo; said Andrew MacDonald, Regional General Manager of Uber Midwest. Lyft issued a similar statement: &ldquo;Bifurcating drivers into two groups was not a compromise and we did not support this model in conversations with the bill sponsors.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s an outright lie,&rdquo; said Pat Corrigan, a Principal at Yellow Group and representative of the Illinois Transportation Trade Association, which includes nearly all of Chicago&rsquo;s taxi companies. &ldquo;We talked to Uber representatives, including Michael Kasper, their lobbyist, over the weekend in an attempt to understand how we could satisfy their wishes.&rdquo; Kasper did not respond to an e-mail by posting time.</p><p>MacDonald argued that the bill will force drivers to choose whether they want to be full-time or part-time, and that it would make it difficult for the company to respond to fluctuations in demand.</p><p>&ldquo;Why are we putting in a threshold? Does it benefit consumers? Does it benefit drivers? No. It protects the taxi industry,&rdquo; he said. MacDonald said he did not know immediately what portion of the company&rsquo;s drivers in Chicago drive more than eighteen hours per week. He added that a more reasonable restriction would simply limit rideshare drivers to 12 hours per day, a rule that Chicago taxi drivers must follow.</p><p>Chicago officials, however, have been crafting similar changes to a city ordinance on ridesharing. According to Michael Negron, Chief of Policy for the Mayor&rsquo;s Office, a new proposal divides rideshare companies into two classes: those whose drivers average more than 20 hours a week, versus companies whose drivers average less. Companies with higher averages would have to ensure their drivers have public chauffeurs licenses and submit to background checks and drug tests done by the city.</p><p>Unlike the state legislation, the city will consider company-wide averages rather than individual driver averages. &ldquo;If we have to go and individually determine how much each driver is driving, that&rsquo;s a harder-to-enforce system, there&rsquo;s more opportunity for gaming, etc.,&rdquo; explained Negron.</p><p>The bill will go to the Illinois Senate after a two-week recess.&nbsp;</p><p><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-c1722b30-50d1-5e4e-753a-9f789cd52716">Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her </span><a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 07:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-house-moves-rein-ridesharing-110011 Trouble with taxis http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/trouble-taxis-108523 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/taxi thumbnail for timeline cms.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Curious Citizen Dan Monaghan from Chicago&rsquo;s Wicker Park neighborhood says he can&rsquo;t recall ever seeing a taxicab pulled over. And, to him, that seemed kind of crazy, considering the number of &ldquo;close calls&rdquo; he says he&rsquo;s had with taxis as a bike commuter, driver and pedestrian.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It just seems lawless, like they can get away with anything,&rdquo; he says.</p><p dir="ltr">WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side bureau reporter Odette Yousef hopes data can tease out this claim, as well as answer Dan&rsquo;s core question. Odette&rsquo;s reported on <a href="http://www.wbez.org/cabbie%E2%80%99s-lawsuit-against-chicago-moves-forward-104355">issues some Chicago taxi drivers already have</a> with the city&rsquo;s regulations, as well as <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-hunt-taxi-recruits-105421">cabbie recruitment</a>.</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="650" src="http://embed.verite.co/timeline/?source=0Am-AbC8HDbXMdG9NV0VtRURYRFpXS0dtOHZCdWRxa0E&amp;font=Bevan-PotanoSans&amp;maptype=toner&amp;lang=en&amp;height=650" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 26 Aug 2013 12:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/trouble-taxis-108523 Uber car service app makes winners and losers http://www.wbez.org/news/uber-car-service-app-makes-winners-and-losers-104544 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F72728981" width="100%"></iframe></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Uber%20pic.jpg" style="float: right; height: 201px; width: 300px;" title="(WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" />A new smartphone app that hooks people up with rides has angered some big players in Chicago&rsquo;s taxi and livery industries. Companies like Yellow Cab and Flash Cab have sued San-Francisco based Uber for its operation in Chicago. Uber&rsquo;s foes call it a &ldquo;rogue app&rdquo; that ignores city regulations. Uber representatives say their product makes the process of getting cabs and limos more efficient. Either way, some in Chicago believe the service has already changed the basic economics of the business.</div><p>The obvious place to start here was to take an Uber ride. I used the app on my phone to summon a livery car to get me from the intersection of Orleans and Superior streets. My phone showed the car approaching in real-time on a map, and just before pulling up, the driver, Derrick Zielinksi, called to make sure he could identify me.<br /><br />Zielinksi pulled up in a black SUV, typical style for a livery car. In Chicago, livery cars are public passenger vehicles for hire, much like cabs. The difference is livery cars have to prearrange their fares, and are not allowed to use meters, as cabs do.<br /><br />Zielinksi contracts with a livery service for most of his calls, but in his downtime he takes additional calls through Uber.</p><p>&quot;Today is slow, so I try to reach some customers, make some money,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Zielinski estimated he takes about twenty Uber calls each week.<br /><br />Because Zielinski owns his vehicle, he pockets the full fare on those rides. That&rsquo;s good extra income for him and other independent livery drivers who use Uber. Some in the taxi industry say that hasn&rsquo;t gone unnoticed by Chicago&rsquo;s cab drivers.<br /><br />In Chicago, cabs typically get more fares than livery cars because they can take street hails, but they also work under more burdensome city rules. Few cab drivers own their cars -- most of them lease. Cometas Dilanjian of City Service Taxi said Uber is blurring those distinctions between the industries by letting livery drivers pick up street hails electronically anytime.<br /><br />&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve seen some people transition toward the black cars,&rdquo; said Dilanjian, whose affiliation represents nearly 400 independent cab owners.</p><p>Dilanjian said he thinks Uber is drawing cab drivers into the livery business.<br /><br />If true, that hurts his clients, the cab owners who lease their vehicles out to taxi drivers. When there are lots of drivers leasing cabs, those owners charge high fees. When the cabbie pool shrinks, they have to lower their fees. Dilanjian says it doesn&rsquo;t have to shrink much to feel the effect.<br /><br />&ldquo;If that number is 100 or 200, then we definitely see some type of trend here,&rdquo; Dilanjian said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s a lot of drivers leaving.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/saturnism.jpg" style="float: left; height: 400px; width: 300px;" title="Taxi (Flickr/Saturnism)" />Between June and October, the city issued 137 new livery licenses, more than twice the number for the same period last year, and nearly three times what it was in 2010. But it&rsquo;s not clear that the numbers are changing because of Uber.</div><p><br />The city&rsquo;s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection attributes the increase to a recovery. According to department spokesman Jennifer Lipford, the total number of livery licenses in Chicago dropped nearly a quarter between 2008 and 2009 because of the economic downturn, and still hasn&rsquo;t recovered.<br /><br />But some taxi drivers like Shamim Chowdhury worry that jumping from cabs to livery could be risky. Chowdhury said the city could hold livery drivers liable for how Uber calculates fares. The company issues those drivers iPhones that track routes through GPS.<br /><br />&ldquo;That is kind of an illegal service, because on livery service you cannot charge a customer by the mileage,&rdquo; Chowdhury said.<br /><br />Chicago has issued a citation to Uber claiming that it illegally meters livery cars. Allen Penn, General Manager of Uber Chicago, said the company does calculate fares based on data captured from the phones, but said the method is different from metering.<br /><br />The issue may be resolved soon enough. Chicago is considering new livery regulations that would more clearly prohibit Uber&rsquo;s fare calculation method.<br />If adopted, that could mean a whole new shift in incentives for people in the industry.</p></p> Thu, 27 Dec 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/uber-car-service-app-makes-winners-and-losers-104544 Chicago boosts wheelchair accessible taxi fleet with grant funds http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-boosts-wheelchair-accessible-taxi-fleet-grant-funds-103873 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/jenniferthomas_taxi.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The number of wheelchair accessible taxis in Chicago has almost doubled since January -- it&rsquo;s up to about 178.</p><p>That&rsquo;s according to the Regional Transportation Authority and Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.</p><p>And now a $1.7 million federal grant will help the city add even more accessible taxis in 2013.</p><p>Jennifer Thomas said more accessible cabs are sorely needed. She often uses accessible cabs as part of her commute.</p><p>&ldquo;Hopefully I&rsquo;d get quicker service with more accessible cabs in the city,&rdquo; Thomas said. &ldquo;I find that right now, there&rsquo;s a long wait.&rdquo;</p><p>Thomas said she typically has to wait at least forty minutes for an accessible cab.</p><p>The RTA said it costs between 15 and 20 thousand dollars more for a cab company to add a wheelchair accessible taxi to its fleet than a non-accessible vehicle.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) Cost Reimbursement Program reimburses cab companies for that added cost.</p><p>The WAV fund was established in January of 2012 as a part of a taxi ordinance passed by the city council.</p><p>The initial WAV fund was seeded by a $100 increase in medallion license fees for Chicago taxis. That made the fund eligible for matching funds from the New Freedom federal grant program.</p><p>City officials said the federal grant money will mean the fund can add more than 130 new wheelchair accessible taxis to Chicago fleets starting in 2013.</p><p>The RTA board also approved two other projects with federal New Freedom grant money this week. One will fund CTA rail station guides for blind customers. The other will fund Visual Information Systems at Metra stations to assist hearing impaired travelers.</p></p> Thu, 15 Nov 2012 17:19:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-boosts-wheelchair-accessible-taxi-fleet-grant-funds-103873 Chicago cabbies to make aldermanic pitch for fare hike http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-cabbies-make-aldermanic-pitch-fare-hike-101313 <p><p>Chicago cabbies are expected at city hall Tuesday to argue for their first fare increase in seven years, but they may have to wait a bit longer.</p><p>The city council&rsquo;s transportation committee will hold a hearing on a possible taxi fare hike. Ald. Anthony Beale, the panel&#39;s chair, is not saying one way or another how he feels.</p><p>&quot;We&rsquo;re going to listen to all the facts and we&rsquo;re not going to argue this in the press,&quot; Beale said Monday. &quot;We&rsquo;re going to listen to all the facts and come up with a concrete decision on what&rsquo;s best for the city of Chicago.&quot;</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s taxi fares last increased in 2005, although a one dollar gas surcharge was made permanent recently.</p><p>Drivers say their costs keep going up, for example, the amount they have to pay cab owners to lease the cars. Those increases were built into new taxi regulations, sponsored by Beale and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, that took effect earlier this month.</p><p>&quot;Even if they give us some kind of fare increase, which we expect that they will, it really doesn&rsquo;t do anything to help us, because it just catches us up to what we were making before they increased the leases,&quot; said Pete Enger, secretary of the group United Taxidrivers Community Council.</p><p>Enger said he wants the lease increases to be rolled back for the time-being. His group, the UTCC, is responsible for a couple mini-taxi strikes earlier this month. (City officials and the UTCC disagree about the effectiveness of the work stoppages.)</p><p>Emanuel, for his part, has said he doesn&rsquo;t even want to talk about a cabbie fare hike until the quality of the rides improves.</p></p> Tue, 31 Jul 2012 05:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-cabbies-make-aldermanic-pitch-fare-hike-101313 New Chicago cab regulations inch closer http://www.wbez.org/story/new-chicago-cab-regulations-inch-closer-95600 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-17/cabbies.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Some Chicago cab drivers are declaring war on Chicago city government after a committee vote Tuesday in favor of new cab industry regulations.</p><p>Among the many protestors at Chicago's City Hall Tuesday morning were a few dozen cab drivers.</p><p>"They're turning us into slaves - slaves for the city and slaves for the cab companies and we are not gonna take it anymore," said Finn Ebelechukwu, a driver with Flash Cab.</p><p>Among the cab drivers' complaints: that incentives favor cab companies and not drivers. They also said the ordinance did not award a fare increase.</p><p>The packed committee meeting heard testimony from a dozen or so drivers, who implored the city to delay the vote so more considerations could work their way into the ordinance.</p><p>But the city said it has already gathered a ton of industry feedback from a variety of stakeholders. Just before the vote, the committee reminded those in attendance that an ordinance can always be amended after it passes. They then voted in favor of the ordinance 14-3.</p><p>Ebelechukwu was furious about the vote. "We're gonna start with strikes and then we're gonna start raising money against every single alderman who voted for this bill," he said. "The G-8 is coming. We're gonna work the G-8. But guess what? We're with the 99% and we'll see who's gonna drive all those people around who are coming into the city," Ebelechukwu warned.</p><p>The full City Council is expected to vote on Chicago's new cab regulations Wednesday.</p></p> Tue, 17 Jan 2012 21:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/new-chicago-cab-regulations-inch-closer-95600 Chicago's taxi industry could see big changes http://www.wbez.org/story/chicagos-taxi-industry-could-see-big-changes-94840 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-December/2011-12-12/P1030768.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The City of Chicago is introducing broad changes to its taxi industry regulations.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>"How do they know how many hours? I could be working 8 hours, but I'm out like, more than that," Negussi said.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>The taxi ordinance is expected to be proposed at the City Council meeting on Wednesday.</p></p> Mon, 12 Dec 2011 21:27:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicagos-taxi-industry-could-see-big-changes-94840 A 'hack' shares years of stories from a Chicago cab http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-29/hack-shares-years-stories-chicago-cab-92657 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-30/samarov.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A cab driver's job is relatively straightforward: shuttle riders from door to door, or corner to corner. In the course of the ride, though, drivers often find themselves playing amateur therapist, confession-taker and witness to all sorts of moments — first kisses, breakups, an occasional drug deal and countless drunken adventures.</p><p>Dmitry Samarov started driving a cab in 1993 to make ends meet as an artist. In his book <em>Hack: Stories from a Chicago Cab</em>, Samarov combines his tales from the road with some of the art inspired by his driving.</p><p>Host Neal Conan talks with Samarov about his book and his stories from the backseat.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr><p>&nbsp;</p><h3>Interview Highlights</h3><p><strong>On sharing the road</strong></p><p>"Bus drivers tend to take to the road as if they own them. And they take their sweet time sometimes ... We have to let them know that there are other fish in the sea.</p><p>"Bicyclists — there's more and more of them here in Chicago ... but they certainly have to be reckoned with. They zip through in between cars and you have to be very careful ... I've had many interesting interactions with cyclists, both positive and negative."</p><p><strong>On cabbies as philosophers</strong></p><p>"I suppose when you spend a lot of time on your own [you] have a lot of time to ruminate on this and that. Perhaps you get to a point of having ideas about the world in a certain way. And some of the cab drivers certainly enjoy holding forth and sharing their wisdom ...</p><p>"You meet all sorts of people. You meet them at all sorts of times in their life and you play a small part in it ... Some often share them directly with you as a person, others you just overhear. It's kind of an amazing thing."</p><p><strong>On how cell phones have changed the job</strong></p><p>"My first stint as a cab driver was from 1993 to 1997 in Boston. And I actually had one of the earlier cell phones, which entailed having, if you remember, an antenna that you had to then attach to the top of your vehicle ... So I actually took calls back then ... [Today] a lot of my regular customers will contact me by text or by cell phone, so it helps.</p><p>"I've [also] learned very well not to answer conversations before double-checking that they're speaking to me and not to their phone ... Also I have the back of my head to them ... so I can't see who they're talking to."</p><p><strong>On the more unsavory things a driver sees and hears in an evening</strong></p><p>"There's probably few jobs where you see ... the variety — both the variety of people and variety of nights in any given city that you're doing the job ...</p><p>"I've taken prostitutes to some of the nicest apartment buildings in downtown Chicago. And a lot of these things happen at night after a lot of people are asleep, that's for sure. I tend to work until the bars close, so I see a lot of that."</p><p><strong>On the inaccuracy of the 1980s sitcom Taxi</strong></p><p>"Overall I think it's a great show, but that sort of fun-loving camaraderie is maybe ... a thing of the past. Or maybe it's a bit romanticized or cleaned up for network TV. The garage can be a very contentious place or an unhappy place because drivers that are sitting in the garage are not driving and making a living. They're waiting either to pick [up] a taxi, or wait for their taxi to be fixed by the shop ... Or they've just brought it back from an accident or something else, or they're paying for their lease. So not much happy stuff happens in the garage, in my experience."</p><p><strong>On tipping</strong></p><p>"The most wealthy customers don't tip the best. The people that tip the best are people that have worked in the service industry, or do. Bartenders, waiters, waitresses ... Many of my wealthiest customers tip very, very badly.</p><p>"It really, really goes all over the map, but businessmen who take cabs out to O'Hare [airport] — which is approximately a $35 to $40 cab ride — I'm lucky to get 10 percent on a tip."</p><p><strong>On whether or not cab drivers discriminate</strong></p><p>"One of the things that I hear complaints about from customers is that they weren't picked up based on their appearance or where they were going.</p><p>"[But] one of the important ... factors of the job is, you have to take a person where they want to go, and you take any person who asks you to go there. That's the job."</p><div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.</div></p> Thu, 29 Sep 2011 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-29/hack-shares-years-stories-chicago-cab-92657 Chicago taxi rides go up http://www.wbez.org/story/gas/chicago-taxi-rides-go <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/cabs.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The cost to take a taxicab ride in Chicago is set to go up.</p><p>The city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection says that starting at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday the taxicab fuel surcharge will increase to $1 from 50 cents per ride. The department says the $1 surcharge goes into effect when gas prices rise above $3.20 per gallon for seven consecutive business days.</p><p>The department says that as of Monday gas prices have been more than $3.20 for that long. Officials say the 50 cent surcharge has been in effect since October 2009, when gas prices were above $2.70. The department says taxicab passengers should see a yellow sign announcing the surcharge.<br /><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 04 Jan 2011 18:37:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/gas/chicago-taxi-rides-go Cab drivers bid on their freedom http://www.wbez.org/story/cab/cab-drivers-bid-their-freedom <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Medallion-2-.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>If you hop into a Chicago taxi cab this week, don&rsquo;t be surprised if the driver makes small talk about some big numbers. The City of Chicago just closed an auction for taxi cab medallions; basically, the license to operate a cab. <span style="color: black;">Medallions can easily sell for $200,000.</span> <span style="color: black;">Cab companies and investors will likely have the highest bids.</span> <span style="color: black;">But the city is putting some aside for independent cab drivers who don&rsquo;t already own one.</span></p><p>Driving a cab in Chicago is a tough way to make a living.</p><p><span style="color: black; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">JOHN: </span><span style="color: black; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">It&rsquo;s very very heavy and very, very stressful.</span></p><p><span style="color: black;">John Henry manages Gold Coast Taxi.</span> He drives <span style="color: black;">me around and tells me there&rsquo;re all kinds of expenses: gas, taxes and fees. And for some, they have to pay off a big loan to own their own taxi cab medallion. </span></p><p><span style="color: black;">JOHN:&nbsp; </span><span style="color: black;">For one month alone I spend over $6,000 for repairs and that is a heavier responsibility for a medallion owner. That is why most of the people don&rsquo;t like it, and they sell off.</span></p><p>You can&rsquo;t drive a cab without a medallion. So, drivers buy their own or they rent from other people or cab companies to work under their medallions. In other words, if you&rsquo;re a cabbie and want to be your own boss, you buy your own medallion.</p><p>Right now, the going price is $200,000. Still, Henry <span style="color: black;">pushes other cabbies to make the investment.</span></p><p><span style="color: black;">JOHN: </span><span style="color: black;">I have to nurture them talk to them, convince them why. Because if you don&rsquo;t own a medallion you gonna pay lease if you own a medallion you pay lease. So you better off to owning and paying to yourself.</span></p><p>Henry&rsquo;s advice only goes so far. The economics of the industry are not in cabbies&rsquo; favor. Again, anyone can buy a medallion &ndash; that includes investors and cab companies. Drivers are usually out-bid.</p><p><span style="color: black;">The City of Chicago thinks this is a problem. So, for the latest medallion auction, it did something different. It offered 40 medallions that anyone can buy, but it restricted 10 medallions just for cab drivers. And those medallions had a lower starting bid.</span></p><p><span style="color: black;">Commissioner Norma Reyes regulates Chicago&rsquo;s cab industry. </span></p><p><span style="color: black;">NORMA: </span><span style="color: black;">&nbsp;We want to give the opportunity to those individuals who have made a commitment to this industry to create this opportunity for them to have a medallion and run their own business is I think a good thing for the industry.</span></p><p><span style="color: black;">Reyes says the 10 medallions set aside for drivers could cost less than the other, unrestricted medallions. But it&rsquo;s not clear whether the city&rsquo;s gesture will make a difference. Cab industry experts say fleet operators and investors pay a lot for medallions so their demand will keep prices high. That could raise prices for all medallions in the current auction, even for ones restricted to drivers.</span></p><p><span style="color: black;">Michael Levine runs Taxi Medallion Management, a company that buys and leases medallions.</span></p><p><span style="color: black;">MICHAEL: </span><span style="color: black;">I&rsquo;ve got a back log of people, investors who want to buy medallions of 20 to 30 pieces right now, there&rsquo;s just not a whole lot for sale in the city. And I know there are others that are not buying from me that are lookin for medallions as well so i don&rsquo;t think there will be any trouble finding buyers unless something drastic happens</span></p><p>Some cabbies figure Levine is right. So, for this auction they&rsquo;ll bid as much as they can regardless of the medallion set-aside.</p><p><span style="color: black;">STEVE DEI: </span><span style="color: black;">I&rsquo;m looking in the neighborhood of $130,000&hellip;</span></p><p><span style="color: black;">Steve Dei drives for Chicago Carriage Cab.</span> He&rsquo;s bid for cab medallions in the past, but lost. Dei still gives the auction another shot. Here&rsquo;s why: each week he pays about $650 to lease his car.</p><p><span style="color: black;">STEVE DEI: For example for the five or six years that I have worked all I have to show is just receipts so i see a tremendous benefit to me if I were to win the medallion because I would essentially be working my self and just paying off the loan and be able to get something in return for the work that i put in to it.</span></p><p>Most people have a hard time putting a price on intangible things like independence. But for Chicago cab drivers like Steve Dei, &nbsp;they&rsquo;ll have an exact figure.</p><p>The city will settle bids for medallions early next year so some cabbies will have exact prices for medallions and their freedom.</p></p> Thu, 23 Dec 2010 11:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/cab/cab-drivers-bid-their-freedom