Chicago cab fare increase? Chicago taxi drivers want per mile fare hike

July 31, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Earlier in July the $1 fuel surcharge that riders were paying for the better part of the last four years was permanently folded into the fare's base rate. Still, drivers say that does not amount to any increase.

At a public hearing Tuesday, frustrations bubbled over.

"We don't get no respect from anybody, from the city, from the police," Finn Ebelechukwa, taxi driver, said.

"I was going 15, 16 hours -- barely working. Barely working. Because I couldn't take the day off. How fair is that?" Sandra Videk, taxi driver, said.

The demand for a fare hike comes as drivers say their lease rates have gone up and the hours they're allowed to work have gone down.

"Drivers are very frustrated, very unhappy, and very angry. And there will be some serious consequences for the city I believe if they don't come up with a positive result today," Peter Enger, United Taxi Drivers Community Council, said.

The base rate for Chicago taxis is now $3.25, which is higher than that of cabs in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and some other large cities. However, the per mile charge of a $1.80 in Chicago is lower than in those cities -- and that's where Chicago drivers want an increase.

"They want to afford to send their children to college, so that their children don't grow up driving taxis for a living," Thaddeus Budzynski, taxi driver, said.

The appeal comes as the number of consumer complaints about taxis has risen sharply in part because of a campaign launched by the city this year, encouraging riders to report bad driving to 311. On Tuesday, cabbies complained the deck is stacked against them.

"Who gets a fine for $3,000 for cutting somebody off?" Ebelechukwa said.

The mayor is non-committal on a fare hike and on Tuesday, the chair of the transportation committee said it'll take time to study the issue.

"We're going to be fair to the drivers. We're going to be fair to the riders. And we're also going to be fair to the taxpayers of the city of Chicago," Ald. Anthony Beale, (Ward 9) said.

The issue is also being fought in the courts. A class action lawsuit challenging the fare structure cites a study that says drivers' take-home pay is below the federal minimum wage standard.

"If you want improved service, you have to keep those drivers in the industry. And you do that by making sure that they're compensated well," Melissa Callahan, plaintiff, said.

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