Will Chicago drivers ditch their cars for rideshare services?

Will Chicago drivers ditch their cars for rideshare services?

Chicago drivers: Can you live without your car? Maybe one of the up-and-coming rideshare services can you convice to ditch your ride.

Uber, the rapidly growing ride-sharing service, is offering Chicago-area motorists $500 in prepaid rides as an incentive to ditch their cars for good by donating them to Wheels for Wishes, a nonprofit organization that donates the sale of the vehicles to local Make-A-Wish services.

Uber announced the incentive Aug. 15 along with news that it's cutting fares in Chicago by another 15 percent, to an average $9 fare — a fare the company says is the lowest average in the U.S. Uber says the reduction makes its service a full 50 percent cheaper than hiring a traditional taxi service in the city.

Chicago rideshare laws

Before you ditch your car and go all-in on ride-sharing, be aware the programs have generated their share of legal challenges and industry concerns in Chicago and other cities around the country.

Traditional cab companies claim the services, which virtually connect a person with a car to a person who needs a ride nearby, are operating without the proper liability insurance required by Illinois law. “These companies are operating illegally,” Dave Sutton, spokesman for the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, told Angie's List reporter Tom Moor in an article about the pros and cons of ride-sharing services.

How rideshare works

Uber and rideshare competitor Lyft are the two most popular rideshare companies in the U.S.

Riders order and pay for rides through smartphone apps. When their ride ends, the user’s credit card is charged, and no cash is exchanged. Tipping also is discouraged.

The riders are asked to rate the drivers, and if low scores are given, the driver and rider won’t be paired again. If drivers continue to receive low ratings, they won't be asked to provide rides going forward.

In fact, Chicago City Council passed an ordinance in May that limits drivers with certain items in their recent criminal history and requires some rideshare drivers to obtain city chauffeur licenses.

Legislation that would regulate the ride-share industry in Illinois passed both the state senate and house earlier this year and is awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn's signature. That bill would mandate minimum levels of insurance for rideshare drivers in the state. Additionally, rideshare drivers who offer rides more than 36 hours every two weeks would be required to obtain public chauffeur’s licenses, which come with criminal background checks and drug screenings.

Under the Chicago City Council's ordinance, rideshare drivers would fall into two classes based on the number of hours they drive per week. The Class A license fee is $10,000 and $25,000 for Class B. By comparison, the going rate for a Chicago taxi cab medallion required to operate a full-time taxi is $360,000.

  • Class A companies are those whose drivers average less than 20 hours per week behind the wheel. Those drivers are not required to obtain the public chauffeur license, but the city will need to approve the company's background check, driver training, vehicle inspection and zero-tolerance drug policies.
  • Class B companies whose drivers average more than 20 hours per week will be required to obtain the chauffeur's license, and the city will conduct the various background checks. The companies are also required to get annual vehicle inspections from a third-party service.

Uber spokeswoman Lauren Altmin previously told Angie's List that Uber drivers already are subject to a three-step background check and regular driving-record reviews. Uber passengers are also covered by $1 million in liability insurance.

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