Chicago taxi drivers ready to strike over Uber provision in proposed budget

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposed budget includes a provision that grants ride-sharing companies access to Chicago airports and the McCormick Place convention center. Taxi drivers are not amused.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor
A bicycle with lime green tires is locked to a pole beside a bright yellow taxi, on June 11, 2014 in Chicago, Ill. Chicago's taxi association has called for the city's taxi drivers to launch a 24-hour strike in protest of accommodations for the ride-sharing app Uber in Mayor Rahm Emmanuel's budget proposal.

Uber has faced no shortage of opposition while trying to introduce its ride-sharing model in cities around the world. But a new proposal in Chicago could actually give Uber an edge.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the 2016 budget proposal which includes increased cab fares and fees on companies like Uber that rely on users to hail private vehicles via smartphones. While this alone seems detrimental to Uber’s success, Mr. Emanuel’s proposal also grants ride-sharing companies access to three heavily-populated areas: Chicago’s two airports and the McCormick Place convention center.

In response the United Taxi Drivers Community Council, which represents about 6 percent of Chicago’s cab drivers, will go on strike for 24 hours on Thursday. The Council says the measures actually hurt them overall, seeing as Uber and similar ride-sharing services will gain more from access to hotspot areas than they will lose from increased fees.

According to the Associated Press, Uber recruited more drivers and is offering discounts in preparation for tomorrow’s strike.

While it’s unclear whether Chicago’s proposed legislation is an attempt to balance competition, other cities are experimenting with legislation that explicitly attempts to bridge the gap between traditional cabbies and app-based rideshares.

In Peoria, Ill., local government has allowed transportation network companies such as Uber to operate in the city, but also “gives taxi operators fare flexibility similar to that which is enjoyed by Uber for pick-ups that are pre-arranged via phone or app,” reported The Christian Science Monitor in June.

In New York City, legislation was passed requiring app services to ensure pertinent information was made aware to the user including supply information on surge pricing, itemized receipts, customer service contact information, and fare estimates, a move meant to address the growth of Uber and level the playing field.

But the sharing economy as a whole has come under scrutiny as it has gained popularity, with many questioning if the underlying motives disregard the original concept.

“It’s ironic that we call the new concept the ‘sharing economy,’ when in fact, we are creating the purest form of ferocious, self-empowering capitalism – a ‘perfect’ marketplace where every asset or service has a calculable, precise value between an individual seller and buyer,” Brooklyn Law School professor Jonathan Askin told the Monitor in March.

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