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Al­der­man pushes for­ward or­di­nance that would re­quire ride- hail­ing driv­ers to be fin­ger­printed — and rein in ‘ surge pric­ing’

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY FRAN SPIEL­MAN City Hall Re­porter Email: fspiel­man@ suntimes. com Twit­ter: @ fspiel­man

Ride- hail­ing driv­ers would be fin­ger­printed — and re­quired to rein in “surge pric­ing” — un­der a sur­prise crack­down that ad­vanced through a City Council com­mit­tee over the ob­jec­tions of Uber and Lyft.

Ear­lier this year, Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee Chair­man An­thony Beale ( 9th) told the Chicago Sun- Times that a city com­mis­sion charged with con­duct­ing an “in­de­pen­dent study” of fin­ger­print­ing was poised to rec­om­mend that the city not adopt the re­quire­ment for Uber and Lyft driv­ers. But the com­mit­tee has yet to is­sue its fi­nal re­port.

On Wed­nes­day, Beale — who fa­vors the fin­ger­print­ing of driv­ers — got tired of wait­ing.

He pushed through his com­mit­tee an or­di­nance that would re­quire ride­hail­ing driv­ers to “sub­mit to fin­ger­print­ing, pro­vide a pho­to­graph” and pay a pro­cess­ing fee, whether the ap­pli­ca­tion is ap­proved or de­nied.

Uber and Lyft have long main- tained that a back­ground check based on FBI fin­ger­print­ing would dis­crim­i­nate against mi­nori­ties who are “far more likely to have an in­ter­ac­tion with the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem” — and of­ten for mi­nor, non­vi­o­lent of­fenses where the charges are dropped but the record has not yet been ex­punged.

Beale ridiculed that “sky- is- fall­ing” warn­ing and dared Uber and Lyft to “walk away from bil­lions of dol­lars.”

He por­trayed fin­ger­print­ing as piv­otal to riders’ safety be­cause it’s the “one way to make sure a per­son is who they say they are.”

“The study was sup­posed to have been done six months ago. … I don’t know what the rea­son is that the city won’t re­lease the study. I can tell you there were peo­ple in­side the room ad­vo­cat­ing for fin­ger­print­ing — par­tic­u­larly the Po­lice Depart­ment,” he said. “Six months is a long time to wait past the dead­line. It’s im­por­tant that we go ahead and move this for­ward.” The surge- pric­ing cap was driven by what Beale calls the predatory pric­ing by Uber and Lyft af­ter a body was found on the CTA el­e­vated tracks at Fuller­ton this month. That halted ser­vice on the Brown, Pur­ple and Red lines, leav­ing thou­sands of com­muters scram­bling to get to work. If the full Council ap­proves the or­di­nance, surge pric­ing would be capped at 150 per­cent above the av­er­age reg­u­lar fare set dur­ing the seven days pre­ced­ing any “un­fore­seen emer­gency.” That’s de­fined as “any ac­tual or threat­ened ter­ror­ist at­tack, mass shoot­ing, ma­jor dis­rup­tion in public trans­porta­tion, fail­ure or short­age or elec­tric power and in­clement weather.”

“Some of those peo­ple had to pay over $ 100 for a cab ride to get to work. A $ 12 cab ride turned into over $ 100 be­cause they surge- priced. They’re tak­ing ad­van­tage of a per­son’s mis­fo­tune. They got a re­fund. But who told them to re­fund?” Beale said, re­fer­ring City Hall.

“If the com­pany is gonna surge price, so be it. But it should be for planned events. Peo­ple know what they’re get­ting them­selves into. But when CTA breaks down, they’re tak­ing ad­van­tage of peo­ple’s mis­for­tune — as well as the weather.”

Beale has re­ceived thou­sands of dol­lars in con­tri­bu­tions from the taxi­cab in­dus­try. He’s the City Council’s cham­pion for a shrink­ing in­dus­try fight­ing for sur­vival in the Uber era.

But the chair­man in­sisted Wed­nes­day that the or­di­nance he mus­cled through com­mit­tee, blind­sid­ing Uber and Lyft, was not a pay­back for cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions re­ceived.

“This is about the safety and well­be­ing of the peo­ple of the city of Chicago. If you get into an Uber, I want to make sure you’re safe. I don’t want any­thing to hap­pen to you,” he said.

Uber and Lyft had no im­me­di­ate com­ment.

Uber and Lyft were blind­sided be­cause the sup­ple­men­tal agenda in­clud­ing the fin­ger- print­ing and surgepric­ing crack­down wasn’t posted on the city clerk’s web­site un­til shortly be­fore 1 p. m. on Tuesday.

That’s well short of the re­quired, 48- hour public no­tice.

Still, Beale forged ahead. He blamed a “com­puter prob­lem” in the clerk’s of­fice for any post­ing de­lay.

Last year, a di­vided City Council agreed to li­cense, but not fin­ger­print, ride- hail­ing driv­ers amid threats from Uber and Lyft to aban­don the Chicago market.

GETTY IMAGES

SUN- TIMES FILES

Ald. An­thony Beale says fin­ger­print­ing ride- hail­ing driv­ers is im­por­tant to riders’ safety.

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