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Cab Drivers Petition City Council Committee For Fare Hike

Taxi

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

Nancy Harty Nancy Harty
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UPDATED 07/31/12 1:50 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago cabbies say higher gas prices and lease rates are driving them out of work.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports, the cabbies appeared before the City Council Transportation Committee Tuesday to make their case for a fare increase.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports

An hour into the hearing, drivers were telling stories of waiting two to three hours for fares at O’Hare International Airport, the lease rates of up to 30 percent higher that took effect this month, and the disciplinary process they call a kangaroo court.

One driver, named Sandra, broke down and told aldermen she suffers excruciating back pain, but couldn’t go to the doctor because she couldn’t afford to stop working.

Taxi drivers say they haven’t received a fare increase in seven years. They argue a new permanent $1 gas surcharge has not made a difference, as gas prices remain high.

Cabbies have said previously that enacting the lease price increase without a fare hike is tantamount to sweatshop labor.

“They are not slaves. They are humans. They don’t live in their cabs. They live in houses. They don’t eat gas. They eat groceries,” Fayez Khozindar, chairman of the United Drivers Community Council, said late last month.

Some cab drivers held a one-day strike earlier this month over the issue, although not all cabbies honored the strike.

The new taxi regulations also 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.

Drivers will also be restricted to 12-hour workdays – excluding breaks – and taxi companies must keep detailed records of how long their cabbies are on the road every day.

The new rules also authorize the city’s consumer protection department to create rules to require GPS technology in all cabs to help enforce the 12-hour driving limit for cabbies.