Chicago Sun-Times - - POLITICS CITY BEAT - BY FRAN SPIEL­MAN City Hall Re­porter Email: fspiel­man@ sun­times. com Twit­ter: @ fspiel­man

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wed­nes­day pro­posed surge pric­ing, older ve­hi­cles and other reg­u­la­tory re­lief to save Chicago’s shrink­ing taxi­cab in­dus­try but al­lowed ride- hail­ing driv­ers to es­cape fin­ger­print­ing.

“This is gonna cre­ate a level play­ing field be­tween the two in­dus­tries as we bet­ter serve our city,” said Emanuel, whose brother is an Uber in­vestor.

Last month, City Hall de­manded that Lyft re­place its back­ground checker, re­view all 27,000 of its driv­ers and con­duct ran­dom au­dits with re­sults shared with the city after ac­knowl­edg­ing that one of its driv­ers had a fed­eral con­vic­tion for aid­ing ter­ror­ism.

In spite of that em­bar­rass­ing over­sight, the mayor’s plan drops the fin­ger­print­ing pro­posal that prompted a threat by Uber and Lyft to leave the Chicago mar­ket in fa­vor of more rigid crim­i­nal back­ground checks, quar­terly spot- checks and au­dits.

Emanuel also pro­posed reg­u­la­tory re­lief for the fast- grow­ing ride- hail­ing in­dus­try that in­cludes re­laxed ve­hi­cle sign re­quire­ments, quar­terly re­ports in­stead of monthly, an­nual debt checks in­stead of ev­ery six months and a stream­lined li­cense re­newal process.

Those changes would seem to give ride- hail­ing an even greater ad­van­tage over taxis.

To counter that per­cep­tion, the mayor is propos­ing even greater reg­u­la­tory re­lief for the heav­ily reg­u­lated taxi­cab in­dus­try.

The sweep­ing changes would al­low strug­gling Chicago cab­drivers, many of them fac­ing fore­clo­sure on taxi­cab medal­lions that have plum­meted in value, to drive their ve­hi­cles for 10 years in­stead of seven and au­tho­rize them to drive used ve­hi­cles with 125,000 miles, in­stead of 75,000.

Cab­bies could also of­fer pre­ar­ranged fares when pro­vided through an app and in­cor­po­rate GPS- based taxi me­ters ap­proved by state and fed­eral agen­cies. That could pave the way for surge pric­ing, just like Uber, Lyft and Via do dur­ing pe­ri­ods of high de­mand.

“If they have the tech­nol­ogy and we have ap­proved the tech­nol­ogy and they can en­sure the con­sumer ac­cepts the fare in ad­vance of the trip, they will be al­lowed to use surge pric­ing,” said Busi­ness Af­fairs and Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion spokesper­son Lilia Cha­con.

The city also would bol­ster the shrink­ing pool of cab­bies by al­low­ing ac­tive ride- hail­ing driv­ers, liv­ery chauf­feurs and com­mer­cial driver’s li­cense hold­ers to ap­ply for taxi chauf­feur’s li­censes with­out tak­ing an “ini­tial taxi­cab driver train­ing course.”

Cab Driv­ers United/ AFSCME said Emanuel’s plan “adopts a few” of the union’s rec­om­men­da­tions but is too lit­tle, too late.

“Taxi driver jobs have been dec­i­mated, and thou­sands of medal­lions are fac­ing fore­clo­sure, yet the city nibbles around the edges, al­low­ing bil­lion- dol­lar ride- hail­ing cor­po­ra­tions to keep clog­ging our streets while mak­ing their own rules,” the union said.

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