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Illinois lawmakers propose rideshare rules of their own

  • Representatives of Uber X, Lyft and Sidecar declined to testify before the Transportation Committee, according to Sen. Sandoval, during a Illinois Senate Transportation Committee hearing on ride share companies insurance practices and risks to drivers and passengers, Thursday, March 13, 2014. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)
Representatives of Uber X, Lyft and Sidecar declined to testify before…
March 25, 2014|By Leonor Vivanco, @lvivanco | RedEye

Lawmakers in Springfield on Tuesday introduced state regulations targeting rideshare companies such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar that in some ways would be more restrictive than what Mayor Emanuel proposed for Chicago’s rideshare industry.

The house bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside), would limit drivers from operating more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period and would prohibit companies from charging any fare that is more than the highest per-mile rate charged by cabs.

The proposed state legislation would require $500,000 combined commercial liability insurance, a chauffeur’s license for drivers and an annual commercial ridesharing dispatcher’s license for rideshare companies.

“We welcome innovation and competition in Illinois, but we will not stand by and watch safety standards be willfully ignored time and time again,” Zalewski said in a news release. “This legislation will protect customers, drivers and the public from being caught in an insurance gap and without the ability to recover from an accident.”

In addition, rideshare vehicles would need to pass safety inspections, be clearly marked and be no more than four years old. Drivers would not be able to pick up or drop off passengers at airports or convention centers, and they would be subject to the same requirements as taxi companies in providing service to under-served areas. No fewer than five percent of the vehicles working with the rideshare company would be required to be wheelchair accessible.

The regulations Emanuel proposed last month would not restrict operating hours but would limit flat fares or rates based on time or distance. Companies also would be prohibited from offering services at O’Hare, Midway and McCormick Place under the city’s proposal. Drivers would have to pass a drug test, training program and background check to drive vehicles that pass a 21-point checklist. The ordinance would impose a license and insurance requirements of $1 million in commercial general liability and commercial auto liability coverage.

Rideshare companies opposed the state’s proposal, which was introduced after state Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago), chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, held a hearing earlier this month on the rideshare industry.

“This legislation shows a blatant disregard for the riders and drivers who rely on ridesharing in Chicago—and the policy efforts already underway with the mayor and aldermen in the city,” Uber said in a statement. “Sandoval and the taxi industry’s time would be better spent focused on bills that would improve taxi service in Illinois cities, not limit options for consumers and drivers,” Uber said.

Lyft, too, said it has been working with the mayor on the ordinance that “prioritizes public safety while protecting innovation.”

The state bill “is a backdoor attempt by state legislators to undermine all the work that’s already been done to reach a solution on this issue, and ultimately kill peer-to-peer transportation,” Lyft said in a statement.

A hearing is scheduled for the state proposal on Wednesday. In Chicago, a City Council committee has a meeting set for Thursday to discuss Emanuel’s proposal.

The state legislation was introduced the same day the Institute for Justice filed a motion in federal court Tuesday to intervene in the lawsuit filed by cab companies and medallion owners against the city. The suit filed last month claimed the city has failed to enforce the existing taxicab ordinance, allowing rideshare companies to operate.

The Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm, is representing three rideshare drivers pro bono, on the basis that the drivers stand to lose their business if the lawsuit is successful. The motion is expected to be heard in a few weeks, said Anthony Sanders, Institute for Justice attorney.

“Our involvement in this lawsuit is not about sensible, reasonable regulation related to health and safety that the city is thinking about in regulating ridesharing,” Sanders said. “This lawsuit is about the taxicab owners’ attempt to use their antiquated taxicab ordinance to stifle ridesharing.”

If they are allowed to intervene as defendants, the Institute plans to file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

In a statement, the Illinois Transportation Trade Association, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said taxi drivers and owners welcome competition and innovation: “This lawsuit has always been about safe and equal rides for everyone in Chicago and a level playing field for all transportation companies who serve the public.” 

lvivanco@tribune.com | @lvivanco

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