Chicago proposes taxi safety reforms

A taxi cab is shown in this file image provided by sister station WABC in New York.

December 12, 2011 7:21:17 PM PST
The city of Chicago is rolling out reforms to make riding in a taxi safer. The reforms include monitoring the driving records of cab drivers and limiting how much time they can spend behind the wheel.

The city says the reforms are the first in 10 years. Besides safety, incentives to modernize the fleet of cabs and the installation of new technology are all part of the new proposed ordinance. Fare increases are not included. Drivers have not had one in six years.

Chicago has had its fair share of taxi cab accidents lately. Some passengers say jumping into a cab is always risky.

"It is a strange thing, getting into a car with someone you don't know, and you hope someone else is looking out for you and making sure that person is a safe driver," said Erin Turner, passenger

"I think they do the most reckless driving," said Latisha Clayton, passenger.

To make the experience better for residents, workers and especially tourists, Mayor Rahm Emanuel says it's time for sweeping taxi reforms that will bring the industry up to speed with New York and Los Angeles.

"Higher safety is the goal, and that hasn't been the case to date," said Emanuel.

In an effort to get bad cab drivers off the road, for the first time the city is going to have real-time access to the Illinois Secretary of State's data base that show when drivers get tickets for moving violations.

"If we do have some kind of centralized data base, I believe we can weed out bad drivers," said cab company owner Cometus Dilanjian, City Service Taxi Association.

Dilanjiin says insurance is his industry's biggest expense, so he supports any reform that may reduce the cost.

Mandatory behind the wheel training and limiting cabbies to driving 12 hours a day are included in the new reforms. While they may not drive for more than that, some cabbies say limiting the hours may cost drivers money, especially during slow times and because the reforms do not include a fare increase.

"I've got to work 10 hours a day to make peanuts," said cab driver Gregory Johnson.

The city says drivers will make up the cost by giving owners a financial incentive to replace their fleet with fuel-efficient vehicles.

"The gasoline savings on the top tier in the lease is $40 a day; $15 will go to the owners, $25 a day will be going into the pockets of the taxicab driver," said Rosemary Krimbal, commissioner, Dept. of Business Affairs and Consumer protection.

The city is proposing a tiered lease system that would allow owners to raise lease rates if they upgrade their fleet. Financial incentives are also being given to owners that make their vehicles wheelchair accessible. Passengers will be happy to know the city will make it mandatory for each cab to have credit card swipe machines.

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