Evanston aldermen this week backed away from a proposed ordinance to regulate rideshare companies and instead opted to explore deregulation of taxicabs in the city.

The proposed ridesharing regulations — largely modeled after a regulatory scheme adopted by the City of Chicago last spring — had been pushed by local taxi operators who complained that the unregulated ridesharing companies — like Lyft and Uber — were cutting into their highly-regulated business.

During the council’s Administration and Public Works Committee meeting, Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, suggested the idea of deregulating taxicabs instead. Or maybe, Grover suggested, there’s a “regulation light” that might even the playing field for both transportation options.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said she wanted more information on the issue — and that she has issues with the performance of some taxi operators now — “even though we regulate them.”

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, when asked by Evanston Now, said the city’s 311 service has received 19 complaints about taxicabs so far this year, and a total of 120 in the three-and-a-half years the 311 service has been in operation, suggesting that — if anything — the frequency of complaints has dropped somewhat in recent months.

Alderman Ann Rainey.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said licensed taxis have far more privileges than rideshare cars — like authorization to make pickups at airports.

And Rainey said she’s used Uber at least 10 times and the drivers have been very nice and police — “a much better experience” than she’s had with taxis.

“Most cabs are very raggedy,” Rainey said. “There’s no reason to fear Uber. The only fear is over competition.”

And, she added, “Uber amounts to a fabulous employment program” — creating additional jobs.

Bobkiewicz said the city now has one employee who spends between half and three quarters of his time on taxi regulation.

Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar said the city’s taxi regulations “have been substantively unchanged” since the late 1980s or early 1990s. “So there may be issues that we’d want to address,” Farrar added.

The committee voted to table the ridesharing ordinance while city staff takes a closer look at what other communities are doing, in hopes of returning to the council with an updated proposal in about a month.

Related stories

City seeks to regulate ridesharing firms

Is Uber a threat to Evanston?

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Government absurdity

    Why does one employee of Evanston government need to spend one half to three quarters of their time on taxi regulation? Something doesn't make sense. Either too many regulations that should be streamlined, or too many taxi drivers misbehaving, or something else.

    It seems a little absurd to commit so much time and money to this issue.

    What am i missing ?

  2. Insurance coverage a concern

    The overriding concern should be insurance coverage that protects the public.  This supercedes licensing considerations and affects drivers, passengers and innocent  third parties.  The available evidence indicates that the ride shares have been very cavalier regarding proper liability coverage, notwithstanding their claims to have adequate coverage. 

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