Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Taxi Drivers Compete For Business Of Evanston Customers

By Megan CrepeauThe Daily Northwestern

An Evanston driver for 303 Taxi was waiting for clients outside Hotel Orrington, 1710 Orrington Ave., when he was approached by a Wilmette taxi driver, who asked him for directions to an Evanston address.

The Evanston driver was outraged.

“He’s from Wilmette!” he shouted at a Wednesday night meeting of the Taxicab Advisory Board. “He doesn’t even know where the address is.”

The driver’s experience highlights a phenomenon that city officials said is a growing problem: Taxi companies illegally send outside drivers to pick up Evanston fares.

“These drivers are sitting there, sometimes for three hours, without a fare, watching non-Evanston cabs picking up fares,” said Kevin Lookis, the city’s revenue manager.

Lookis said the problem “seems to have reached critical mass in the last two or three years.”

The Taxicab Advisory Board, which advises the City Council’s Administration and Public Works Committee, was host to about 30 Evanston taxi drivers at the meeting.

Many of them were incensed by the influx of non-Evanston drivers, yelling and cursing and interrupting each other to make sure their voices were heard.

“We’re not going to conduct this by shouting each other down,” said Alan Miller, the board’s chairman, in an attempt to get the participants to calm down. “I don’t have much of a voice left.”

An Evanston ordinance makes it illegal for area cab companies to send any non-Evanston taxis to pick up Evanston customers.

Chicago and Schaumburg have similar laws.

City staff, including Lookis, have sent letters to the heads of two major cab companies, ordering them to stop sending cars that operate in other cities to Evanston.

The letter was met with a non-committal response, though Lookis said it was strongly worded. In response to one driver asking him to “play hardball” with the cab companies, Lookis said he “threw a pretty hard pitch.”

Lookis said the city will work on handling the problem after they have determined its severity, saying the meeting’s attendees represented about 10 percent of Evanston taxi drivers.

“We are dead serious about eliminating and alleviating this problem,” he said.

If the city decides to actively tackle the issue, Lookis said the first step would be to have Evanston police pull over non-Evanston cabs they see driving in the area.

Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) also attended the meeting, and said the City Council will help enforce the law in whatever way it can.

“I’m sure (the City Council) will be on board,” he said.

Lookis’ letter will be read to the City Council at its next meeting, Jean-Baptiste said, where aldermen can take the issue seriously.

“We’ve been flexible,” he said. “But we can be inflexible if you want to.”

Reach Megan Crepeau at [email protected].

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Taxi Drivers Compete For Business Of Evanston Customers