Last Monday, Alderman Anthony Beale (9th) proposed  that Chicago’s Uber and Lyft drivers should get chauffeur’s licenses. These are what ‘regular’ taxi drivers pay to acquire. If rideshare drivers go for them, it may spell the end of ride sharing as we know it. And, possibly, hike the price of the industry.

As Marco McCotry, Uber Illinois General Manager, points out, the ridesharing industry works precisely because its employees patrol many areas on south and west side of Chicago where  few taxi drivers dare to drive. Fifty-four percent of uberX trips in Chicago begin or end in areas that are underserved by taxi and public transportation.

Uber and Lyft also propel social change since they give jobs to those who are under- or unemployed. More than 20% of uberX driver-partners live on the south and west sides, including many areas plagued by the city’s highest unemployment rates. Such drivers use their car for cereal for their kids. To ask these people to invest $500 in training and certification would only dig their hole deeper. Where would they get the money from? And, in the age of GPS and live traffic apps, is it really necessary for them to sit in class and spend six days in class studying map reading at a local community college? Or to do the same online?

“The Alderman claims these changes are needed to level the playing field with taxi,” Uber wrote in a blog post, “Most everyone agrees that taxis in Chicago are over-regulated. But the answer is to introduce new common-sense rules for taxis, NOT to impose the same bureaucratic regulations on ridesharing apps like Uber.”
Beale wants to “level the playing field” for taxi companies and to require all drivers, even those who work part time, to get the relevant license, as well as submit to city background checks and fingerprints. Uber argues that this would reduce the number of people who could drive for Uber. And,at the end of the day, how different would Uber and Lyft be to any ‘regular’ taxi company.

Alderman Beale’s ordinance could pass as early as April 13. Uber has launched a petition to keep Uber in Chicago, which already has more than 47,000 signatures.