Chicago City Council is one vote away from enacting punishing rules that could force the popular platforms out of the Windy City.
Austin Berg is the writer for the Illinois Policy Institute.
A Chicago City Council committee on June 17 approved regulations for ridesharing that would likely end the service as residents know it – and quite possibly drive Uber and Lyft out of town. The proposed ordinance requires rideshare drivers, who already undergo company- required background checks, to submit to city-overseen fingerprinting and vehicle inspections and acquire a chauffeur’s license. Uber and Lyft warned aldermen that passing the ordinance would force them to cease operations in Chicago. The full City Council is expected to vote on the ordinance as early as June 22, mere weeks after the ridesharing platforms shut down in Austin, Texas, due to similar restrictions. Beyond providing millions of safe rides for residents, the services have provided job opportunities for many Chicagoans struggling in a stagnant Chicago economy.
A father’s fight
Lamar Stovall is just one Chicagoan whose life has changed for the better because of ridesharing. Last fall, Stovall worked his last day at the Chicago Park District. The father of five was frustrated with the politics of his job. And he wanted more flexibility to be with his kids. He found that flexibility in Uber. Stovall was already familiar with ridesharing, even taking Uber to work most days. In fact, it was his only way of getting safe, reliable transportation in the West Side neighborhood of North Lawndale, where Stovall was born and raised. “Cabs won’t come out here,” he said. “There’s always an excuse.” More than half of UberX rides begin or end in underserved areas of the city.
Uber helped Stovall finance a new car – now he works half of the week as an Uber driver, and the other half as a driver through Grubhub, a restaurant-locating and -delivery service. He’s making double what he did at the park district. “I can catch up on bills and stuff and make life better for my kids,” Stovall said. “I’m in a position where we can stop using food stamps, which I couldn’t imagine before this job … I’m trying to move to the suburbs so my kids can go out and play.”
Stovall is troubled by what new licensing rules could do to ridesharing in Chicago. His concerns are echoed by 72-year-old Chicago Uber driver Jim Evans.