Fingerprinting Uber, Lyft Drivers Off The Table For Now

A smartphone displaying the Lyft app
Paul Sancya / AP Photo
A smartphone displaying the Lyft app
Paul Sancya / AP Photo

Fingerprinting Uber, Lyft Drivers Off The Table For Now

Chicago aldermen could face yet another battle over stricter regulations on ridesharing services after the sponsoring alderman decided Monday to water down his original ordinance.

After more negotiating with Uber and Lyft officials, his colleagues, and the mayor’s office, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) said he’s backing down on a requirement — for now — to fingerprint rideshare drivers like cab drivers. Fingerprinting has been one of the major points of contention for Uber and Lyft drivers, and the mayor’s office has tried to convince Beale to ease up on the restriction.

Beale said he’s adding two new provisions to his ordinance and he plans to call for a full council vote on Wednesday. The first is a six-month, independent commission that will study the validity of fingerprinting. Uber and Lyft officials have argued that they do their own quality background checks, and fingerprinting would be overly burdensome.

Beale says if the study comes back saying fingerprinting is necessary, “they’re gonna be mandated to fingerprint in six months.”

The second new provision gives Uber and Lyft six months to come up with a plan on how they’ll better serve disabled riders, and then an additional six months after that for the companies to implement that plan. Companies would be fined for each day after that 12 months that they are not in compliance. The original ordinance required that five percent of any ride-sharing company’s fleet be wheelchair accessible.

Beale said the disabled community “is okay with” the delayed implementation, but representatives with Access Living, an advocacy group for people with disabilities, disputed that.

In a statement, Marca Bristo, President & CEO of Access Living, said the rideshare ordinance needs “concrete benchmarks” to hold Uber and Lyft accountable, as “we have a right to equal access, equal fares and equal service.”

“The modified proposal is unacceptable,” Bristo said. “We have already waited two years for rideshare companies to make a commitment to accessibility. They’ve done little to nothing in that time.”

The latest ridesharing compromise also wasn’t sitting well with some aldermen on the Progressive Caucus. Alderman John Arena (45th) said the city should be fingerprinting Uber and Lyft drivers while Beale’s independent commission was completing its study. But Arena also had some reservations about that.

“This proposal… is ludicrous,” Arena said. “Until we have a more comprehensive database of offenders, fingerprinting is the gold standard.”

Arena said he plans to try a parliamentary move to block a vote on the new ordinance so his colleagues can vote on the old one that includes fingerprinting.

Emanuel called Beale’s latest proposal an “honest compromise” on Monday, according to audio from an event that WBEZ obtained from the mayor’s office.

Meanwhile, a Lyft spokesperson said the agreement “sets high safety standards while still allowing people to use Lyft to get around. We urge the full Council to pass this revised ordinance on Wednesday.”

Lauren Chooljian covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow her @laurenchooljian.