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City Council OKs Plan For Taxi Regulations, Permanent Fuel Surcharge

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

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UPDATED 01/18/12 1:52 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — A plan approved by the City Council Wednesday will mean higher cab fares for everyone.

As CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl reports, aldermen voted Wednesday to make a $1 taxi fuel surcharge permanent, which would mean $3.25 on the meter before you even move.

Currently, the surcharge is instituted when gas prices go up, and removed when they go back down again. But that has not happened in quite a while.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

“We took the surcharge, which is $1, and we’re moving it into the flag pull. The surcharge has been in place since 2009 consistently, which means every time you get into a cab, the flag pull is 2.25, plus ding- ding, $1,” Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Rosemary Krimbel said Tuesday.

Krimbel warned that the new $3.25 flag pull “does not necessarily give the drivers a fare increase. That’s not on the table at this time.”

But, she said, “We believe with this ordinance, the industry will dramatically improve and when it does, we will be more than happy to relive a fare increase.”

The permanent change in the flag pull was not enough to appease cabbies, who have petitioned the City Council for a 22 percent fare increase. They say they don’t benefit from the fuel surcharge, which goes directly to the gas stations.

The move for the permanent fuel surcharge is tied to a comprehensive taxi reform plan proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, which was also approved by the City Council Wednesday.

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

They 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.

A new tiered lease system is also planned, which would allow for with discounts on medallion fees for companies that buy fuel-efficient and wheelchair-accessible vehicles. But some cabbies have complained that the savings would be obliterated if fares are not raised.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Tuesday that Mayor Rahm Emanuel had softened some of the planned reforms, in particular an increase in the bond cab companies must post to the city from $100,000 to $1 million.