Uber, Lyft Threaten To Leave As Chicago Advances Regulations

Uber, Lyft Threaten To Leave As Chicago Advances Regulations

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Despite objections and threats that Uber and Lyft would leave Chicago, a committee of Chicago aldermen Friday advanced stricter licensing rules for ride-hailing companies that include fingerprinting and background checks.

There have been marathon public hearings and hours of closed door meetings at City Hall over whether or not Uber and Lyft drivers should be regulated more like cab drivers. Uber and Lyft officials have insisted they each impose their own inspections and checks for drivers, and the “onerous” requirements in the latest ordinance would be too costly and force them to cease operations in Chicago.

“We urge the City Council not to abandon the tens of thousands of drivers who depend upon ridesharing to make ends meet or the passengers who use Lyft to get a safe ride home,” Chelsea Wilson, Lyft Senior Policy Communications Manager, said in a statement.

But sponsoring Ald. Anthony Beale has long argued that the intent of his ordinance is not to force these companies out, but to protect Chicagoans who use ride-hailing to get around the city.

“Their model is they wanna get people on the street as soon as possible, we wanna help them with that. But at the same time we can’t help them with that and then jeopardize consumer safety,” Beale told reporters Friday. 

Beale’s proposal also requires 5 percent of Uber or Lyft vehicles on the road be wheelchair accessible, and requires drivers to pay off any city debts and receive training.

But even with the unusually quick, unanimous committee vote on Friday, discussions on this ordinance seemed far from over. 

At the hearing, Beale mentioned that he’d continue to work with Uber, Lyft and the mayor’s office on the ordinance ahead of the full council meeting Wednesday. The Emanuel administration failed to negotiate any changes in the ordinance ahead of the committee vote, but a mayoral spokesman stressed to reporters that talks would continue.

Those discussions leave open the possibility of not only changes to the ordinance, but also that aldermen could put off making a final decision for another month. Some aldermen Friday discussed the possibility that their colleagues Wednesday might use a parliamentary move to put off the vote until the July meeting. 

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