Aldermen discuss preventing taxicab medallion owners from losing licenses


Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) attends a City Council meeting. Rainey supported on Monday a moratorium on owners of medallions losing their city-issued taxicab licenses if they are unable to meet an April 30 deadline.

Rishika Dugyala, Assistant City Editor

City staff will move forward with a plan to prevent owners of medallions — city-issued taxicab licenses — from losing those licenses if they are unable to find a qualified driver by the end of the month.

Currently, owners cannot renew their licenses if they are unable to secure a driver with a taxicab and vehicle insurance.

At an Administration and Public Works Committee meeting Monday, Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) supported a moratorium on the requirement that individuals will lose these licenses if they do not find a driver by April 30.

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz said because the staff planned to move forward with the moratorium, there was no need for a formal motion to be made.

Evanston regulates taxis operating in the city by issuing medallions and chauffeur driver licenses, as well as establishing taxi operational regulations, said Katie Knapp, the city’s transportation and mobility coordinator.

In the past, many medallion owners have relied on taxi drivers to provide a cab and insurance, which the holder could then identify when renewing his or her taxi vehicle license each year, Knapp said. But since the 2013 rise of ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft in Evanston, Knapp said medallion owners have had difficulty securing taxi drivers.

Before ridesharing companies became popular, there were as many as two drivers for every taxi vehicle license. Now, there are 140 medallions issued within the city and only 99 registered chauffeur drivers, Knapp said.

Additionally, Knapp said chauffeur drivers are in even higher demand within Evanston because new ridesharing service Via — which operates as a shuttle service and competes with buses as well as other public transit — exclusively hires individuals with chauffeur licenses.

“What’s happened to the taxicab industry is a really good example of technology changing a market at a stunning speed,” Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) told The Daily. “We want to figure out what are the problems happening to our taxi system because there are so many people who are not adept at using Uber and Lyft.”

Several community members and medallion owners spoke at the meeting, sharing how having the medallions rescinded would affect their livelihoods by taking away something they worked hard to purchase from the city.

Everybody in the cab industry is almost bankrupt,” said Hassan Abdi, a driver with Norshore Cab. “I know I am. We don’t know which way to turn, so we’re here to plead our case.”

Several medallion owners expressed their willingness to pay extra money to hold onto their medallions rather than lose them at the end of the month.

The committee will consider an ordinance at its meeting on May 9. Bobkiewicz said by then staff would meet with the interested parties to put together recommendations.

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