Chicago Tuning Up Taxis' Safety

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Anthony Beale, who chairs the City Council Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, introduced a reform package that includes revamped training for drivers and a limit of no more than 12 hours of driving per day.

The City Council of Chicago on Dec. 14 considered a reform packages for taxis operating in the city and their drivers. Announced two days earlier by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Anthony Beale, who chairs the City Council Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, the package includes revamped training for drivers, a limit of no more than 12 hours' driving per day, and a lower cap of 75,000 miles on any new taxi. An incentive is planned for wheelchair-accessible vehicles: $100 off of the annual $600 medallion fee. Any cab company with more than 20 cabs must maintain at least 5 percent of its fleet as accessible vehicles, if the package is adopted as proposed.

"These reforms will increase safety and bring Chicago's taxi fleet into the 21st century by enhancing oversight of drivers, ensuring vehicles are modern and more fuel-efficient, and giving customers a cleaner and safer ride," said Emanuel. "These advances in the taxi industry are part of a comprehensive effort to help Chicagoans get where they need to go safely and affordably."

The reforms include:

  • A new limit on age of taxis by lowering the maximum number of miles on a new taxi from 150,000 to 75,000
  • A tiered lease syste that raises lease rates on more fuel-efficient vehicles, incentivizing owners to modernize and upgrade their fleets, providing significant fuel savings for drivers and reducing emissions

"These are common-sense reforms that are in line with the interests of cabdrivers, passengers, and the companies," Beale said. "The result will be a more efficient taxi industry that will serve the public in a better, more efficient, and, most importantly, safer manner."

They said taxi companies, drivers, independent owner-operators, and aldermen had input into the proposed reforms, which also include:

  • Real-time access to the Illinois secretary of State's moving violations database, which will allow the city to take dangerous drivers off the street immediately instead of waiting for annual reviews and will eliminate the need for drivers to submit their own driving records
  • A partnership with the Chicago Police Department for ticketing information so city regulators have access to moving violation tickets, with these incidents added to the driver watch list
  • Denial of renewal for chauffeurs with three moving violations within a 12-month period
  • A revamped City Colleges of Chicago coursework for taxi drivers, with an increased focus on safety and mandatory behind-the-wheel training
  • A new category of licenses for so-called "jitney" cars, which will bring regulation, licensing, safety, and structure to this industry and improve service to underserved areas
  • Mandatory swipe machines in the back of each taxi for credit cards to increase ease of access and speed for credit card transactions
  • Installation of GPS technology into cabs

Michael Levine, CEO of Yellow Cab Chicago, said the reforms "represent a win for passengers, drivers, and medallion operators alike. The provisions created to promote technological advancement and fuel efficiency will enable us to further the programs and ideals to which we have already committed our firm," he added.

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