Evanston City Council to weigh regulations on ride-share services

Julia Jacobs, Assistant City Editor

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Evanston City Council will discuss whether to move forward with regulations on ride-sharing companies such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar at next Monday’s meeting, city manager Wally Bobkiewicz said.

The opinions of aldermen vary widely on the issue.

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) said he thinks the city needs to treat ride share services and taxicab companies fairly. The key question is whether or not to regulate this form of transportation, he said.

“I don’t really see how you can maintain these significant restrictions and requirements you have for taxis and not have the same kind of limitations for other people that are essentially providing the same service,” Wilson said.

The proposed ordinance, which borrows from active Chicago regulations, would require that ride-sharing companies pay a licensing fee of up to $25,000 a year per driver and provide drivers with liability insurance. Former Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed legislation requiring ride-sharing services to provide their drivers across the state with liability insurance after vetoing a previous, more stringent ride-sharing bill in August.

The city needs to start from scratch when regulating this type of innovation, Ald. Jane Grover (7th) said. Because ride-share companies have their own ways of protecting clients through independent feedback mechanisms, the council has to find a new strategy for regulating them, Grover said.

“Innovation in ride-share is far ahead of where municipal regulation is,” she said.

Two Uber drivers in Chicago were charged with sexual assault in the past three weeks, adding to the conversation about whether to regulate the company. One of the assaults occurred in November while the other took place over the summer, according to the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets.

In response to the assaults, Uber Chicago introduced a new program Tuesday in which security specialists, including off-duty Chicago police officers, will conduct real-time monthly inspections of Uber rides to monitor quality safety issues, according to the company’s website. Uber boasts more than 2 million rides per month in the Chicago area.

Bobkiewicz said the council is aware of the assaults and that the incidents may play a role in their discussion of whether to move forward on the licensing ordinance.

Wilson said the recent assaults reinforce his concerns about the lack of regulations on ride-sharing companies in Evanston. Grover said the issue should be a part of the council’s discussion, but she is inclined to compare the rate of assaults from ride-sharing drivers with that of taxicab drivers.

According to Evanston police Cmdr. Joseph Dugan, there have been no instances of assault by drivers from ride-sharing companies in Evanston.

Dugan said there are steps one can take in order to be safer when using ride-sharing services.

“I would never get into a ride-sharing vehicle that you didn’t order,” he said. “Keep your family and friends updated on your status (when using these) and be sure to report it to police or the company if you feel uncomfortable with the service.”

Julian Gerez contributed reporting.

E-mail: juliajacobs2018@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @juliarebeccaj