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Aldermen again hold off on Uber licensing scheme

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Evanston aldermen this week again deferred action on a staff proposal to create a city licensing system for transportation network providers like Uber and Lyft.

The decision postponed a vote on a plan that would have adopted here rules similar to Chicago's regulatory scheme — including its license fee of up to $25,000 a year for the services.

The inaction came the same day Gov. Pat Quinn, as he was leaving office, signed state legislation, Public Act 098-1173, that requires the services to provide liability insurance coverage for their drivers. That regulation was adopted after more a more restrictive plan favored by the taxi industry was defeated. Uber has voiced support for the bill Quinn signed.

The adoption of that legislation didn't come up in City Council debate, but concerns about whether the ride-sharing drivers would be adequately insured provided one of the rationales for the proposed city regulation.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said Tuesday that he would ask Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar to review the new state law and see what impact it may have on the need for separate regulation here.

Several aldermen at the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting questioned whether the city rules were needed.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said she was concerned about "the slippery slope of over-regulation."

"It's almost like when we were trying to regulate kids' Kool-Aid stands," Burrus said.

Farrar said he was concerned that someone injured by a ride-sharing vehicle might sue the city. But Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, suggested that was implausible. "If somebody runs into me on the way home and isn't insured, I'm not going to be looking to the city to sue," she said.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, compared the situation to a proposal not long ago that the city regulate scavengers who cruise alleys looking for discarded metal they can sell for scrap. It turned out there's "no real desire to regulate them," Braithwaite said.

Rainey said she's had extremely good service from the ride-sharing companies, which she said cost less than cabs and offer better service in cleaner vehicles.

"We regulate taxis," Rainey said, "but eight out of 10 of our taxis are vehicles you wouldn't want to ride in."

The proposal was held in committee for further consideration on Jan. 26.

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