The city of Chicago has stepped in to block the ride-sharing company UberX from illegally picking up passengers at Midway and O'Hare airports.
Last Friday, UberX, which uses a smartphone app that connect riders to drivers, issued a memo to its drivers stating they could begin to pick up passengers from Chicago's two major airports. The city currently prohibits ride-sharing companies from doing this.
A group pushing to unionize the city's cab drivers, United Taxidrivers Community Council, learned of UberX's alert to drivers and subsequently contacted the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, which then told the ride-sharing company on Monday that it could not pick up passengers from the airports.
“The city has not authorized any ride-sharing company to offer pick-ups at either airport. Any company offering that service is subject to enforcement, which includes tickets and vehicle impoundment. The city intends to strictly enforce this policy,” the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection spokesperson Mika Stambaugh told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The United Taxidrivers Community Council was upset about UberX's attempt to service the airports because “taxis and limos have to buy airport departure stamps to pick up at the airport," council representative Peter Enger told the newspaper Tuesday.
"It’s a $4 tax that goes to support the convention business," he added. "If this was allowed to happen, the state would be cheated out of their funds and it would impact four separate industries: Chicago taxis, suburban taxi, limousines and Airport Express vans."
"Uber drivers were ecstatic on Friday night. They used the term 'authorized.' They made it sound like there was some kind of official policy change by the city ... The next thing we knew, Business Affairs reached out to Uber and told them in no uncertain terms that they could not pick up at airports.”
The UberX memo to its drives came after last Wednesday's Chicago Chicago City Council meeting, during which aldermen delayed a vote on a measure to place some regulations on ride-sharing companies.
The pending city ordinance looks to create a new "transportation network provider" license for ride-sharing companies such as Uber X, Lyft and SideCar, which are not currently licensed. Under the measure, the new license would come with stricter requirements for service providers that have company-wide driver averages of more than 20 hours per week. The measure also permits the city to "place a cap on surge-pricing” during times of high demand. And ride-sharing companies would have to serve all city communities, among other requirements.
Under the measure, McCormick Place, O’Hare and Midway airports would be off-limits for ride-sharing companies to pick up riders or street hails “unless the commissioner determines, in duly promulgated rules, following consultation with the commissioner of aviation, that such pick ups can be accomplished in a manner that preserves security, public safety and the orderly flow of traffic; and ... designated taxicab stands or loading zones.”
When asked by the Chicago Tribune why UberX moved to illegally pick up passengers at the airports, UberX spokeswoman Lauren Altmin said “both O'Hare and Midway desperately need additional transportation options.”
Following the city orders that UberX halt service at the airports, the company told its drivers in an alert that “we will be placing UberX pickups at the airports on hold. We appreciate your continued service and patience as we work with the city and state on an improved process for UberX airport pickups.”