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Thousands Of Cab Owners Will Go Bankrupt In Fight With Uber, Lyft: Report

By Tanveer Ali | June 5, 2017 12:22pm
 Competition from ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft is forcing many independent cabbies out of business.
Competition from ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft is forcing many independent cabbies out of business.
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CHICAGO — Hundreds of taxi medallions have been foreclosed on this year, and the city's taxi drivers union says "thousands more" may be coming as the industry struggles to compete with services like Uber and Lyft.

The Cab Drivers United AFSCME Council 31 released a report showing that 774 taxi medallions — required to operate a cab — have been given back to the city as owners have been unable to pay the taxes and license fees associated with them.

"Thousands more foreclosures are likely," said Tracey Abman, associate director of the union.

"For many purchasing a medallion was an investment in their future," Abman said. "Many are now facing a possibility of a lien being put on their home."

Some 370 taxi medallions changed ownership at an average price of $348,466 in 2013. This year, one was sold for $35,000.

The report examines city data and interviews Chicago's owners and taxi drivers who have seen revenue in their industry dry up because of competition from ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft.

Among the findings in the report:

• The number of rides in January 2017 (1.1 million) dropped 52 percent from the number of rides in January 2014 (2.29 million). A DNAinfo analysis of city data in 2016 found a 23 percent drop in rides from the previous year.

• As of March, 42 percent of Chicago's nearly 7,000 taxis have been inactive, not being used for a single fare. In March 2014, only 16 percent of taxis were out of service.

• People who own and operate their own taxis spend an average of $44,000 in loans, city fees and other expenses like gas. In 2013, such drivers made $19,000 in profit per year. In 2016, they lost on average $4,000.

The union is seeking new measures from the city that will help taxicab owners and operators that include amending the owner code so that owners do not need to buy new vehicles if older vehicles pass inspections, allow taxi drivers to pay their ground transportation tax in installments rather than lump sums and remove vehicle license renewal fees.

"There's forces closing in on these small-business owners, and they don't know where to turn," Abman said.