CITY HALL — The City Council passed a package of reforms for the taxi industry Wednesday, but the head of the Transportation Committee immediately followed with a new "giant step" intended to "level the playing field" with ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.
Under the proposal of Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), all cabbies and ride-hailing drivers would have to have chauffeur's licenses and would have to be fingerprinted. Also, all ride-hailing cars would be required to be less than seven years old, unless they still pass an inspection through eight years, and ride-hailing cars would have to be able to handle wheelchairs.
Beale said he also wants ride-hailing drivers to "pay any outstanding scofflaw debt" on city violations, estimated at a total value of $15 million.
City Hall Reporter Ted Cox talks about reforms to help the ailing taxi industry.
"This is the right thing to do. We've been taking those baby steps," Beale said. "I think this is the final giant step we need to take in order to level the playing field for [ride-hailing] and the taxicab industry."
Uber and Lyft have previously resisted chauffeur's licenses for their drivers and the demand for their cars to be wheelchair-accessible.
The package approved by the full City Council Wednesday trimmed minimum fines for cabbie violations and granted them a 60-day grace period for those caught driving on an expired chauffeur's license. Beale also pushed through a separate measure allowing cab drivers to charge an extra 50 cents to customers who use credit cards — not including the city's new Arro and Curb taxi apps, which like Uber and Lyft factor credit cards into the initial enrollment.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave a chilly response to Beale's latest proposal, saying he was focused on providing "safe, reliable and comfortable choices" to riders.
"What are the commuters and consumers looking for?" Emanuel said. "Are the consumers getting something safe and reliable?"
Beale, though, claimed to have 30 aldermen signed on to his proposal, and has wide leeway on advancing the measure as chairman of the Transportation Committee.
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