WBEZ | taxi http://www.wbez.org/tags/taxi Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago moves on taxi reforms to leave more money in cabbies' pockets http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-moves-taxi-reforms-leave-more-money-cabbies-pockets-110877 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Cabs.png" alt="" /><p><p>The city of Chicago is moving on a set of reforms to help cabbies take home more money, a partial salve after a months-long fight over legalizing competing rideshare services left many taxi drivers feeling bruised. While many hail the step as a sign that city officials are finally working to redress cab drivers&rsquo; complaints, some say the changes don&rsquo;t go far enough.</p><p>&ldquo;What we wanted to do is improve overall their experience here in the city, and make it more lucrative for them as cab drivers,&rdquo; said Maria Guerra Lapacek, Commissioner of Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.</p><p>Guerra Lapacek said her department crafted the proposals after working with representatives from Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Local 31 and other driver advocacy groups. Some of them will be included in an ordinance to be introduced at City Council&rsquo;s meeting next week. Others will be implemented through rule changes by the BACP.</p><p>The most significant change would reduce how much taxi owners may charge to lease their fuel-efficient cabs after the vehicles&rsquo; first year on the road.</p><p>&ldquo;The garages are able to recoup their investment after a year of having these vehicles in circulation,&rdquo; explained Guerra Lapacek, &ldquo;so the idea was to reduce the lease rate cap for the second year, and that way give relief back to the cab driver.&rdquo;</p><p>Guerra Lapacek said this idea resulted from the surprising finding in a recent <a href="http://www.wbez.org/study-chicago-cabbies-earn-average-12hour-110726">city-commissioned study</a>, which found that cab drivers spend about 40 percent of their gross income on their vehicle leases. Ultimately, the reform could affect leases for an estimated 3,700 of the city&rsquo;s nearly 7,000 cabs.</p><p>Leases would also be reduced for drivers whose vehicles generate a separate revenue stream from advertising displays. The reforms would require cab companies to credit leases in these cases.</p><p>&ldquo;There are over 2000 owner-operators in the City of Chicago. They don&rsquo;t pay a lease,&rdquo; said Peter Enger, a cab driver and Secretary of the United Taxidrivers Community Council. &ldquo;This will not help them in the slightest.&rdquo;</p><p>Enger said he&rsquo;s delighted that city officials appear to be considering the difficulties cab drivers have faced since a previous set of reforms took effect in 2012. Those reforms raised the lease rates for cabs, without a commensurate increase in taxi fare rates. Many cab drivers say that has resulted in longer working hours to earn the same income.</p><p>Cab drivers who own and drive their own taxis affirm Enger&rsquo;s fear that a new round of reform will still leave them in the dust.</p><p>&ldquo;The only way is to get a fare increase that we did not get for almost ten years, to offset the cost of living and all of that stuff,&rdquo; said Ahmed Ammar, who owns and drives his own taxi. &ldquo;Everything went up.&rdquo;</p><p>While some cab drivers, particularly those aligned with UTCC&rsquo;s union, push for a taxi fare increase, others worry it could adversely affect demand. Representatives from another union, Cab Drivers United, say raising fares is lower on their priority list.</p><p>&ldquo;Our focus first and foremost has been moving forward on these changes that will both put money in drivers&rsquo; pockets, and keep the cab companies competitive with the (rideshare) companies,&rdquo; said Tracy Abman, an organizer with AFSCME Local 31.</p><p>Guerra Lapacek said her department will not consider a fare increase at this juncture because she worries it could turn customers away from the taxi industry. Rideshare companies&rsquo; prices routinely undercut taxi fares.</p><p>The proposals also include city-backed smartphone applications to allow passengers to electronically hail taxis, as they do with popular services such as Uber and Hailo.</p><p>&ldquo;We think this is an excellent reform that&rsquo;s going to bring the cab industry into more innovation and really help them access those customers,&rdquo; said Guerra Lapacek. She said the city will put out a request for proposals, and will require all taxis to be on at least one of the city-backed apps.</p><p>Additionally, the reforms would reduce the fee that taxi drivers pay on credit card transactions, from 5 percent to 3 percent; lower the maximum penalties for taxi offenses from $1,000 to $400; and <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/bacp/publicvehicleinfo/publicchauffer/chauffeurtrainingtaskforcefinalrecommendations.pdf">streamline</a>&nbsp;the required driver training process.</p><p>The city will also create a task force to review <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-often-are-cabs-pulled-over-and-what-109734">the enforcement process of taxi rules</a> at the Administrative Hearings Court, which many taxi drivers disparagingly refer to as a &ldquo;kangaroo court.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s significant that the City is listening to drivers that are organized, listen to them, hearing their concerns, addressing some of their concerns and agreeing to continue to work together with drivers to make their lives better and make sure the industry remains viable,&rdquo; said Abman.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef"><em>@oyousef</em></a><em> and </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud"><em>@WBEZoutloud</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 18:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-moves-taxi-reforms-leave-more-money-cabbies-pockets-110877 Rideshare vs. Taxicabs: The inside story http://www.wbez.org/news/rideshare-vs-taxicabs-inside-story-110296 <p><p>The best taxi drivers get to know hotel doormen.</p><p>&ldquo;How you been, John? Everything good?!&rdquo; shouted Saied Sarvinehbaghi out his window as he pulled to the front of the Hilton cab line on a recent morning. &ldquo;You want me to stay here or back up? Stay here? OK. Airport would be nice, John,&rdquo; Sarvinehbaghi chuckled.</p><p>A ride from the Loop to O&rsquo;Hare could bring in more than $40 for a single fare. Chicago&rsquo;s airports are one of the few places left in the city where taxicabs still rule the road. But elsewhere, the competition for fares is growing fiercer by the day.</p><p>Chicago <a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/rideshare-ordinance-passes-1?in=morningshiftwbez/sets/morning-shift-week-of-may-26">recently passed rules</a> to legalize ridesharing services, which let people use their personal cars to take paying passengers around. The debate over ridesharing has mostly centered on how the service differs from traditional taxis. So WBEZ spent a day with a cabbie, and a night with a rideshare driver to find out for ourselves.</p><p><span style="font-size: 21.81818199157715px;">The taxicab driver</span></p><p>Sarvinehbaghi started driving 35 years ago, soon after he came to the U.S. from Iran for college. At the time, he thought he&rsquo;d only be driving cabs for a couple of years. As a passenger climbs into the backseat and directs him to O&rsquo;Hare, Sarvinehbaghi reflects on why he&rsquo;s stayed so long in the industry.</p><p>&ldquo;This job is good to me because it&rsquo;s exciting, because it&rsquo;s not a boring job,&rdquo; Sarvinehbaghi said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a very addictive job, actually. You get addicted to this job. If you get addicted, it&rsquo;s hard to let go.&rdquo;</p><p>Sarvinehbaghi is not your typical cabbie &ndash; he owns his medallion, which is a city license for a cab. He&rsquo;s had it for about 15 years.</p><p>&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t buy it,&rdquo; he explained. &ldquo;We had a great mayor called Harold Washington, and he&rsquo;s the one who started giving medallions out instead of selling them, so I was one of guys who won it (in a lottery).&rdquo;</p><p>Most taxi drivers don&rsquo;t own medallions, and in recent years, they&rsquo;ve gotten harder to buy. At times, medallions have sold for as much as $360 thousand. The majority of cabbies lease their cars, with the medallions attached, for $400 to $700 a week.</p><p>Sarvinehbaghi is glad he doesn&rsquo;t pay a lease, but he said he still has expenses. According to city rules, he has to buy a new car every four years and pay for expensive taxi insurance. Despite all that he says he got by just fine until the road recently became more crowded with rideshare drivers.</p><p><span style="font-size: 21.81818199157715px;">The rideshare driver</span></p><p>At about the same time Saied usually ends his shift on a Saturday evening, Dan Burgess is driving into the city from his home in Downers Grove. Burgess, who introduces himself to passengers as &ldquo;Trivia Dan,&rdquo; has done this most weekends for the past year. He drives for ridesharing services UberX, Lyft and Sidecar.</p><p>&ldquo;I like meeting people,&rdquo; he explained. &ldquo;I love the city and the pulse of the metropolis, and I enjoy driving people around and getting paid for it and having a good time. And I thought it would be a fun way to expose people to me and my trivia company and ask them trivia questions on the rides.&rdquo;</p><p>Burgess receives ride requests through his smartphone. Almost as soon as his first carload of Lyft passengers &ndash; three young women going out for a dinner in Lakeview &ndash; squeeze into his back seat, he peppers them with trivia questions.</p><p>&ldquo;Well, if you guys want to play trivia, I&rsquo;ve got trivia questions ready&hellip;&rdquo;</p><p>As Burgess ferries passengers around the city in his 2005 silver Hyundai hatchback, the same scene repeats itself all night.</p><p>When asked, passengers said they prefer ridesharing to cabs because of the convenience. They use their smartphones to summon cars without ever going outside, and there&rsquo;s no hassle with cash or credit cards &ndash; the apps take care of the payment. When the ladies arrive at their destination, they just hop out.</p><p>&ldquo;Alright, so, I just got a text already saying that was &lsquo;50% Prime Time,&rsquo;&rdquo; Burgess said as the passengers exited. &ldquo;Lyft has a promotion going on tonight, so I got time-and-a-half on that.&rdquo;</p><p>Lyft and Uber frequently raise their rates at times of peak demand, or simply to entice drivers to use their app rather than the competition&rsquo;s. Cabs, by contrast, can&rsquo;t change the meter rate.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Ridealongs%202.jpg" style="height: 415px; width: 620px;" title="Dan Burgess, a.k.a. “Trivia Dan,” drives in from the suburbs nearly every weekend to do ridesharing. He uses it as an opportunity to promote his trivia business, and says he shouldn’t be subject to the same rules as cab drivers. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" /></p><p><span style="font-size: 21.81818199157715px;">Different rules of the road</span></p><p>After roughly six hours with both Burgess and Sarvinehbaghi, it was clear that the essence of what they do is the same: they drive people places for money. So should they follow the same rules? Dan said &lsquo;no.&rsquo;</p><p>&ldquo;This is a casual experience,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I might go a month without giving a ride. Nobody has a cab that sits for a month without being used. So why should I fall under the same strict rules as a real cab when I might only give five or ten hours a week, or sometimes even five or ten hours a month?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s rules and regulation,&rdquo; counters Sarvinehbaghi. &ldquo;It says if you want to transport people in the City of Chicago, you have to be registered, you have to have a medallion, you have to pay the fees and taxes, and have some kind of chauffeurs license, so they know who you are.&rdquo;</p><p>Sarvinehbaghi said to get his chauffeurs license, he had to take a class; pass an English exam, a physical, an eye test, and a background check; and have a clean driving record. Uber, Lyft and Sidecar say they perform background and driving record checks, too. But several <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-02-14/news/ct-rideshare-background-checks-met-20140214_1_background-checks-ride-sharing-drivers">news outlets</a> have <a href="http://www.nbcchicago.com/investigations/Ride-Service-May-Pose-Risk-to-Passengers-256639641.html">reported cases</a> of rideshare drivers with criminal histories.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s about protecting the consumer in Chicago. People&rsquo;s life is in our hand,&rdquo; Sarvinehbaghi said. &ldquo;I used to work night shift on the weekends, you won&rsquo;t believe how many drunk people I take home, they pass out in the back seat. Young girls, older guys with Rolex (watches), girls with short skirt and practically no clothes on, and I take them where they want to go and I call their parents down and take them.&rdquo;</p><p>But Burgess said ridesharing services weed out bad drivers faster than the city does, because the apps require passengers to rate their drivers after each ride.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s actually more safe because of the rating system,&rdquo; argued Burgess. &ldquo;If there&rsquo;s a problem, you can call support and report a driver, saying I was driving erratically or dangerously or I was under the influence or something. Lyft would turn off my account immediately.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size: 21.81818199157715px;">The cost of doing business</span></p><p>The other big difference between Sarvinehbaghi and Burgess involved their expenses. WIth frustration, Sarvinehbaghi pointed out that his 2014 Toyota RAV4 was only four months old. He bought it with a five-year payment plan, but the city will only allow it to be used as a cab for four years. He said that means in the fifth year, he&rsquo;ll have to continue paying for it, but he won&rsquo;t be able to use it as a taxi. In fact, he&rsquo;d have to buy another new car to use as a cab,saddling him with two monthly car payments.</p><p>&ldquo;This car, $33,000, I paid it. I&rsquo;m paying the car payment,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m paying almost $600 a month (for) insurance...stickers, fees, taxes, gas &ndash; you add all this up, it&rsquo;s costing me money to keep this medallion. You know, I work so hard, paying all these fees, and [rideshare drivers] come and do it without paying any fees or anything.&rdquo;</p><p>After expenses, Sarvinehbaghi made roughly $11 an hour during the shift I observed.</p><p>Burgess has it easier. He uses his nine-year old car, which he paid off long ago. Unlike Sarvinehbaghi he is not required to pay for commercial liability insurance. Burgess just needs to cover gas, and pay Uber 15 percent of his earnings.</p><p>During my night shift with Burgess he made about $14 an hour after expenses.</p><p>He acknowledged that rideshare vehicles have been hard on independent medallion owners.</p><p>&ldquo;I really feel bad for some independent cab owner who spent $300,000 on a medallion, yeah, I feel sorry for that guy,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s unfortunate, he made that investment. But it&rsquo;s a new day, and people like getting around this way more than that way.&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed, ride sharing&rsquo;s growing popularity is one reason Chicago&rsquo;s city council decided to legalize the service. Illinois may soon <a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/rideshare-legislation-passes">follow suit</a> statewide. Sarvinehbaghi said he had planned to pay his sons&rsquo; college tuitions by selling his medallion, but now it&rsquo;s likely to lose much of its value.</p><p>Still, he said if the state allows ridesharing, he may sell his cab and try it, too.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 05 Jun 2014 15:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/rideshare-vs-taxicabs-inside-story-110296 Illinois Senate passes ride sharing rules http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senate-passes-ride-sharing-rules-110191 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/1Lyft (AP Photo - Jeff Chiu).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois senators have passed rules for the new, growing industry of &ldquo;ride sharing&rdquo; services, and they appear to be the strictest statewide regulations in the country so far. The package of regulations are contained in a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-house-moves-rein-ridesharing-110011">House bill</a> and a trailer amendment bill, the latter of which will have to go back to the House before both arrive on Gov. Pat Quinn&rsquo;s desk for signing. The rules were largely championed by a coalition of Chicago cab companies, who claim their business has suffered as a result of the proliferation of ride sharing activity.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re not trying to stop technology, and everyone that uses it,&rdquo; said Sen. Tony Munoz (D-Chicago), sponsor of HB4075 and its amendment trailer bill HB5331. &ldquo;The only thing we want to do is make it safer, regulate it fairly for everyone in the industry.&rdquo;</p><p>The rules would apply most immediately to services UberX, Lyft and Sidecar, which facilitate ride sharing primarily in the City of Chicago. The three California-based companies provide smartphone app technologies that allow people to use their personal vehicles for hire, much like taxis. So far, they have operated illegally, but a groundswell of consumer support and a fear of alienating technology companies has prompted local and state governments to consider ways to bring them into a regulatory framework.</p><p>Under the bills, commercial ride sharing companies would be required to carry primary commercial liability insurance equal to taxis, with a combined single limit per accident of $350,000. More critically, it eliminates <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/state-legislators-probe-rideshare-insurance-109857">concerns raised by several insurance associations in the state</a> over when that insurance policy would apply. Under the rules, the policies would be effective from the moment a ride share driver logs into the app to accept rides, until logging off. Previously, companies disputed whether their insurance policies should apply, or should apply at such a high level, during times that a driver may be logged onto their app, but not yet en route to or conducting a fare.</p><p>All ride share drivers would also have to carry distinctive registration plates and stickers on their vehicles.</p><p>More frequent drivers would be subject to additional rules, similar to taxi drivers. Those who offer ride sharing services more than 36 hours every two weeks, on average, would have to get public chauffeurs&nbsp; licenses, subjecting them to the same criminal background checks and drug testing as taxi drivers. The rules would allow a four-week grace period, during which these drivers may still offer ride shares while an application for a public chauffeur&rsquo;s license is pending.</p><p>Chicago drivers who average at least 36 hours every two weeks would also have to comply with the city&rsquo;s rules for taxis regarding the age of their vehicles. Currently, this means their cars could be no more than four years old, in most cases. These cars would also be subject to government safety inspections.</p><p>Despite fierce rivalry among ride share companies, they were united in their opposition to the Senate legislation.</p><p>&ldquo;The bill will prohibit insured and background-checked Lyft drivers with cars more than four years old, immediately eliminating 70% of Chicago&#39;s Lyft drivers,&rdquo; read an e-mail from Lyft. &ldquo;This will disproportionately affect low income drivers in the Lyft community who have come to rely on ridesharing as an important way to earn extra money to make ends meet.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Today&rsquo;s vote in the senate will hurt consumers and limit transportation options across the state,&rdquo; wrote Uber Midwest Regional Director Andrew MacDonald, in an e-mailed statement. Uber is the company behind UberX, the ride sharing platform.&nbsp; &ldquo;We will continue to work with state and city officials to ensure uberX has a permanent home in Illinois for consumers to benefit from competition and much needed transportation options,&rdquo; he continued.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it regulates too far, and I think it sends a message that innovation will be kneecapped in Illinois if you compete against a powerful monopoly,&rdquo; said Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine), during the debate preceding the floor vote. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s not the kind of message we want to send right now.&rdquo;</p><p>The Senate rules still allow local municipalities authority to regulate fare structures for ride sharing services. In Chicago, aldermen are <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city-moves-regulate-rideshare-companies-109639">considering an ordinance</a> that gives the city authority to cap so-called &ldquo;surge pricing&rdquo; among some of the ride sharing services. The concept allows them to charge passengers more than the usual amount during times of peak demand.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 16 May 2014 07:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senate-passes-ride-sharing-rules-110191 Secret recording shows Uber's efforts to poach Chicago cabbies http://www.wbez.org/news/secret-recording-shows-ubers-efforts-poach-chicago-cabbies-110072 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP81700915726.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>For years, Chicago has struggled to recruit enough taxi drivers for the city. New competition from ridesharing companies is making that even harder. As the city looks to regulate those companies, it also seems to have abandoned its past policy of ensuring a robust corps of cabbies. Now, a secret audio recording reveals a newly aggressive push by the industry to persuade cabbies to become rideshare drivers.</p><p>WBEZ obtained the recording from a cab driver who attended a February information session at Uber offices in Chicago. The session was specifically to recruit taxi drivers to the company&rsquo;s popular ridesharing platform, called uberX.&nbsp; In it, an Uber representative pitches a room full of cabbies on the idea of dropping their cabs.</p><p>&ldquo;As Uber grows &ndash; this is why we&rsquo;re here today, is to teach you guys about the option that I think, quite frankly, is a little bit better for you guys in terms of your life and the cost,&rdquo; he told them.</p><p>UberX drivers get fewer fares than taxi drivers, but the company representative played up the advantages of switching from cab-driving to rideshare-driving. First, cab drivers wouldn&rsquo;t have to pay a weekly lease to use their vehicle anymore, because they&rsquo;d be able to use their personal cars. Taxi leases run anywhere from $400 to $700 a week.</p><p>Second, drivers could cash in on &ldquo;surge pricing&rdquo; &ndash; that&rsquo;s a term Uber uses for times of peak demand. The company hikes its fares during rush hour and when the weather&rsquo;s bad, sometimes charging up to seven times their normal rates. The representative told cab drivers in that session that if they got one taste of surge fares, they&rsquo;d want more.</p><p>&ldquo;It seems difficult to not drive a taxi in rush hour when you guys are taking a fare to the Loop &ndash; but just try uberX,&rdquo; he urged them, &ldquo;and you&rsquo;ll see that it might take a couple minutes longer to get that fare, but that fare will be at an increased rate.&rdquo;</p><p>WBEZ spoke with several taxi companies that say they are losing drivers to ridesharing. The question is, are fewer taxis good for the city?</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s office wouldn&rsquo;t comment. Oddly, neither would the city&rsquo;s department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, which regulates the taxi industry. A spokeswoman said they don&rsquo;t care about driver numbers.</p><p>But they certainly did before. Last year, the department head was very vocal about a shortage of cab drivers.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve seen it dropping down over the past five or six years,&rdquo; said former Commissioner Rosemary Krimbel, at a Taxi Driver Recruitment Fair that the city co-hosted at Olive Harvey College last year. Krimbel said the city was short 2,000 cab drivers. She called that a problem, and said it was the city&rsquo;s job to fix it.</p><p>&ldquo;I think there&rsquo;s a solution,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;And I hope to increase the number of drivers and support them.&rdquo;</p><p>But now the city says it has no role in keeping enough taxis on the road. Some say that&rsquo;s not a wise position for the city to take.</p><p>&ldquo;I definitely think it&rsquo;s very important for the tourism industry to have outstanding taxi service,&rdquo; said Charles Goeldner, a professor emeritus of tourism and marketing at the University of Colorado. Goeldner literally wrote the textbook on tourism, called &ldquo;Tourism: Principles, Practices, Philosophies.&rdquo;</p><p>Goeldner said cities that are serious about tourism actively support their taxi industries. He says taxi drivers are ambassadors for the places where they drive. They offer visitors knowledge and predictability.</p><p>&ldquo;There has to be a trust element,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;and the taxi industry has always been regulated and licensed and has to meet certain requirements for cities.&rdquo;</p><p>Uber claims it holds its ridesharing drivers to high safety standards. It also talks a lot about promoting consumer choice in transportation. But if cab drivers heed Uber&rsquo;s call and switch to ridesharing &ndash; making rush hour commutes more expensive than ever &ndash; isn&rsquo;t that bad for consumers?</p><p>&ldquo;The goal is not to surge at rush hour,&rdquo; said Andrew MacDonald, Uber&rsquo;s Midwest Regional Director. &ldquo;But the pitch to drivers is &lsquo;Hey, right now we are undersupplied at rush hour, and so the opportunity is good to be on the Uber system.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>MacDonald said as more people, cabbies or not, sign up to drive for uberX, prices won&rsquo;t surge as much. That might push some cab drivers back into the taxi industry.<br />But for now, it might be harder than ever to get a taxi in the Loop during rush hour.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 17:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/secret-recording-shows-ubers-efforts-poach-chicago-cabbies-110072 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