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A proposed ordinance mirroring the recent Chicago ordinance regulating ride-share businesses such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar failed to get off the ground at the Administration and Public Works Committee on Sept. 22. The Committee voted instead to hold the measure in order to explore possibly de-regulating taxi service rather than extending regulations to rideshare.

The proposal would have required rideshare companies to obtain an Evanston license at the same cost as the Chicago license – $25,000 per year for operators “who operate more than 20 hours per week.” Those operating fewer than 20 hours could get a $10,000 annual license. Despite the differences in population, the proposed costs are the same as those in the City of Chicago.

Other proposed regulations would include insurance requirements, a ban from cabstands and a requirement that operators “serve disabled individuals and … [provide] services in underserved areas.”

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, asked that the City “explore whether it makes sense rather than regulate rideshare, to deregulate taxi cabs.” She said the City might better “achieve the goals of safe, reliable ride share taxi cab services” by turning the business over to the marketplace and competition.

Several aldermen referred to the present state of taxi cab service in Evanston. “I have issues with some of the taxi cabs today,” said Alderman Colleen Burrus, 9th Ward.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said, “I use Uber all the time. And I sit in a nice, clean cab all the time.” She has not had great experiences in Evanston taxis, she said, and sometimes felt unsafe.

“What is it that makes you feel unsafe?” asked Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward.

“First of all, the cabs are very raggedy,” replied Ald. Rainey.

“If we are regulating the cabs and they are raggedy, then what’s wrong with us?” asked Ald. Holmes. 

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said communities all across the country are addressing the rideshare movement, most with differing levels of regulation. He said that by and large, the rideshare companies have cooperated with communities regulating them. He suggested that Evanston join other communities in adopting some form of regulation, but admitted that allowing rideshare services could harm taxi cab business. “The value of having these newer options might outweigh damage to taxi companies,” he said.

Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar said his department “did our level best to follow the instructions of Council” in preparing the proposed ordinance. As for policy determinations as to whether or not to regulate, he said “we are not exactly prepared to get into that.” Ordinances regulating taxi cabs are “substantially unchanged since the late 1980s, early ’90s” he added.

“Could we gather some information and then decide?” asked Ald. Grover. “I don’t want to be behind the eight ball on this innovation.” She asked for information detailing the cost of regulating taxis and the revenue generated from cab licenses.