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City, Cabbies Clashing On Plans For Taxi Reform Without Fare Hikes

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A taxi stops to let off a passenger on Clark Street downtown. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The Emanuel administration and some Chicago cabbies are set to clash over the city’s plans to reshape the taxi industry without raising fares.

As WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, Chicago Commissioner of Business Affairs and Licensing Rosemary Krimble says cab drivers will fare better under the administration’s plans, even without a fare increase.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

“They’re going to be getting more money in their pocket with more fuel-efficient vehicles, because they pay for the fuel,” Krimble said. “The differential between a fuel-efficient car and a Ford Crown Victoria, which is the bulk of the fleet right now, is about $40, $50 a day.”

But Peter Unger, who drives a cab for American United, says that is a miscalculation.

“That savings is completely obliterated by the increase in the tiered lease system,” Unger said. “If I’m spending $25 a day and my lease goes up $200, that’s a net loss of $25 to $50.”

Cabbies with the United Taxidrivers Community Council also criticize the administration’s plans for reducing hours drivers can work, and of course forgoing a fare hike.

Bill Burns, who drives a cab for Blue Ribbon, says their organization has been researching industry issues for years, but officials didn’t sit down with them as they drafted their ordinance.

“This ordinance is going forward without good input from the taxi drivers, from the public, and from the small owners,” he said.

Krimble says Burns is mistaken.

“We talked to the owners. We talked to the drivers. We had several open houses – town hall meetings – at City Hall. Myself and several other people from my department, and another commissioner, went to O’Hare and walked around in the corral,” she said.

Krimble and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the planned changes to the taxi industry last week.

The reforms, which touch all aspects of the industry, were largely prompted by a CBS 2 investigation of dangerous drivers.

The reforms include a limit on the age of vehicles that can be on the roads, by lowering the maximum number of miles on a newly-converted taxi to 75,000 from 150,000.

Also, on-the-road training will be required before cab drivers are licensed and driving records will be reviewed more than once a year.

The tiered lease system Unger mentioned would allow for with discounts on medallion fees for companies that buy fuel-efficient and wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

Separately, a group of 1,500 cab drivers have signed off on a proposal to raise fares by 22 percent, charge credit card users a $1.50 convenience fee and a $75 fee for drunken passengers who vomit in their vehicles.

The cabbies also want to impose a $50 fee for the use of a fraudulent credit card and a $1 fee for each additional passenger. Currently, there is a $1 fee for the first additional passenger and a 50 cent fee for every other extra passenger.

Taxi industry reform is the subject this weekend on WBBM Newsradio’s “At Issue” program. Listen in on Christmas Day at 9:30 a.m.

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