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Since City staff first proposed the idea of regulating ride-share services such as Uber, City Council and in particular the Administration and Public Works Committee have been reluctant to take such a step.
Staff gave up on Jan. 26 and proposed instead a resolution stating that the City would not regulate such services, also known as Transportation Network Providers (TNPs).
The City will defer to State law and the newly signed Illinois regulation that sets “minimum standards for mandatory insurance coverage and background checks,” according to a staff memo. The City of Evanston will thus not collect a license fee from Uber, Lyft and other similar services. Fees proposed by City staff were set at $20,000 for busier services, $10,000 for less busy – the same as fees charged by Chicago.
For now, there will be no fees and the status quo will continue, despite the fact that, according to what City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said at the Jan. 12 A&PW meeting, TNPs violate City ordinances each time they pick up a rider in Evanston.
The City’s taxicab ordinances – developed in 1978 and materially unchanged since the 1990s, according to the staff memo – will also remain unchanged. It is these regulations that, arguably, result in City ordinance violations each time a resident calls for an Uber. The code makes it illegal for a taxi without an Evanston taxicab license or medallion to pick up a rider in Evanston. It is legal, though, for such cabs to drop off riders in the City.
“At some point we need to revisit how we regulate taxi cabs,” said Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward. Ald. Grover has from the outset of the ride-share debate called for a comprehensive revision of City ordinances rather than a separate ordinance addressing only TNPs. “Medallions distort the market,” she said.
Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said the idea behind the medallion system was to limit the number of cab drivers so that there would be enough ridership to support those drivers. The idea that TNPs coming into Evanston is good for taxi cabs and residents because it creates a competitive environment “is absurd,” he said. There is no competition, he added, because taxi cabs must buy medallions and annual licenses while TNPs and their drivers do not.
“We know how it’s going to play out,” said Ald. Wilson. “The other group [taxi cabs] is going to be decimated.” Earlier in the debate, he said the proposed resolution “lets this other business [TNPs] completely off the hook.”
For now, though, that is exactly what is happening in Evanston. TNPs will be governed by a watered-down state law signed by then-Governor Pat Quinn after he vetoed an earlier version. The law requires only insurance coverage for the business and drivers, background checks to assure no sex offenders or recent DUI convicts are behind the wheel, and disclosure of inflated or “surge” rates.
So for the time being, Evanston taxicabs will be governed by the 1978 regulatory scheme.
Several members of the committee thanked City staff for their hard work in preparing a TNP regulatory ordinance as they rejected it.