Uber drivers complain after being blocked in North Chicago

ABC7 I-Team Investigation
NORTH CHICAGO, Ill. (WLS) -- The I-Team is getting results after drivers for Uber complained that they were being ticketed and towed by a suburban police department.

The North Chicago Police Department quickly ended rides, accusing drivers of breaking the law by picking up and dropping off passengers. Uber managers say its drivers were being unfairly targeted.

Uber driver Kim Whiteside says she steers clear of North Chicago and the Great Lakes Naval Station after her SUV was towed and impounded when she picked up four students in this naval base visitor's lot.

"I look like a criminal and all I am trying to do is make a living," Whiteside said.

North Chicago police and the Navy police have joint jurisdiction over the lot where Whiteside was stopped by police.

"And all of the sudden a North Chicago cop comes riding along side of me and asked me who I was driving for and I told him Uber and then he said, 'Get your driver's license and leave your keys in the car,'" Whiteside said.

Whiteside says the students were forced to get out and a costly confrontation began.

"Two $750 tickets, a $500 impoundment fee because they towed my car and a $175 storage fee," Whiteside said.

She says some fines were reduced in court and Uber eventually picked up the tab. Uber tells the I-Team that five other drivers were ticketed and impounded after picking up sailors on the same visitor lot, which also has a taxi stand.

"They were providing ride share services in a way that was consistent with the state framework and providing great, safe, affordable transit options to let people get from A to B," said Chris Taylor of Uber.

After not hearing back from police department, the ABC7 I-Team stopped by to try to get an explanation.

The I-Team requested an interview with the police chief - instead, the deputy chief of police showed us a city ordinance, which states that public passenger vehicles in North Chicago must have a special $450 license.

Uber contends its drivers don't operate as taxis and limos and shouldn't have to pay municipal fees. Uber has a business license in Chicago but the city doesn't require ride share drivers to buy individual licenses.

"I think everybody wants Uber, I think the citizens of Illinois want Uber, and I think the state legislator and governor have spoken loudly that they think ride share services are a positive thing for the state," Taylor said.

A state law went into effect June 1 requiring drivers to have more thorough background checks and more insurance coverage. However, Uber admits, that law doesn't preempt local control.

After the I-Team started investigating, the North Chicago City Attorney told the I-Team it would stop enforcing the local ordinance while a new one gets drafted. Whiteside says she's glad to be able to work in the suburb again.

"Now I can drive, now I can work and be able to help the naval base, which is really awesome. Thank you," Whiteside said.

An updated ordinance should go into effect in July and will still require ride share companies to register with the city of North Chicago, but not individual drivers, the city attorney said. It will require companies to tell the city the names of drivers.

The naval base says it welcomes ride share services if individual drivers first register and get vetted though Navy police.

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