Chicago’s taxicab industry is likely to turn into a “Wild West” dominated by independent drivers, with fleets disappearing and the city losing control, after the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday dealt the struggling industry a final flow.
By refusing to hear the taxi industry’s appeal, the nation’s highest court let stand a federal appeals court ruling last fall that snuffed out an attempt by the cab companies to level what they called an uneven playing field that favors Uber, whose investors include Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s brother.
The appeals court ruling essentially said that the business models between taxis and ride-hailing services are different and, therefore, they can continue to operate under different sets of rules in Chicago.
That decision validated a 2014 City Council ordinance that let Uber and Lyft operate in the city without taxi medallions, city-regulated fares, fingerprinting or other standards cab companies and their drivers must follow.
Mara Georges, the former longtime city corporation counsel now representing the taxicab industry, said Monday’s ruling could be a death blow for the cab industry as Chicagoans have come to know it.
“The fleets will disappear and you’ll have taxis owned by individual owners. The problem with that is that much of the control the city has exercised over taxicabs has come through the fleet,” Georges said.
“It’s going to end up being more of a Wild West situation where you’ve got all kinds of independent drivers out there just looking to pick up fares and make as much money as they can,” she said.
The only way to prevent that kind of free-for-all is to “level out the playing field” between ride-hailing and taxicabs, Georges said. That’s something the federal appeals court and, now, the U.S. Supreme Court said was legally unnecessary.
“A tremendously big step is to think about the fact that the public is not served when drivers are not fingerprinted and impose a fingerprinting requirement on everybody. All people who drive for hire. Not just some of the people who drive for hire,” Georges said.
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