Just a few months ago, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was adamant about not allowing ride-sharing apps using “citizen drivers” like UberX and Lyft to be used for passenger pick-ups at O’Hare and Midway airports as well as the city’s huge McCormick Place convention center. (UberBLACK pickups/drops are currently allowed at Chicago airports.) But now he has changed his mind.
The new 2016 budget proposal issued by Emanuel this week would reverse the city’s existing policy, allowing ride-sharing pick-ups at those restricted venues. What changed his mind? Chicago is facing a budget gap of hundreds of millions of dollars, and this is one way to erase some of the red ink.
The plan still must be approved by the Chicago City Council, so there is no immediate estimate of when the newly proposed policy might take effect.
But the news did elicit outrage from the city’s licensed cab drivers, who staged massive protests by refusing to pick up waiting passengers at the O’Hare and Midway airport terminals for a period of two hours on Wednesday.
The cabbies’ outrage was not soothed by the fact that the budget plan would allow for a 15 percent increase in taxi fares. Drivers said that wouldn’t be enough to make up for the business they would lose to the unlicensed Uber and Lyft drivers.
According to the new budget proposal, ride-sharing drivers would have to pay the city a fee of $5 each time they pick up or drop off a passenger at the airports or the convention center — more than double the fee charged to taxi drivers. In addition, there would also be a new 50 cent surcharge on all taxi and ride-sharing trips.
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