If you want real ridesharing alternatives, veto those bills, Gov. Quinn

By: Stephen Schlickman

(NOTE: This commentary originally was published online on July 29, 2014 by Crain's Chicago Business.)

Vetoing Anti-Ridesharing Bill Will Increase Transportation Alternatives

If you’ve lived in Chicago for longer than a week, you have to shake your head when listening to the taxi industry’s arguments against ridesharing.

The cab companies contend – with a straight face, mind you – that they offer safe and secure rides and serve every neighborhood in the city. In other words, that they’re meeting consumers’ rights and transportation needs.

Ridesharing services like Lyft and UberX are popular in Chicago and in nearly 100 other cities across the nation for good reason. Available via the touch of a smartphone button, affordable, and accessible day or night in neighborhoods typically underserved by taxis, ridesharing fulfills a market need that has existed for decades.

Ridesharing wouldn’t exist if these companies were not responding to consumer demands for more convenient, affordable and reliable transportation choices that employ the latest user-friendly technology.  But rather than adapt to provide better service and a more innovative product, the taxi monopoly, whose few medallion holders already benefit greatly from government involvement, has gone “Full Illinois” in an attempt to put the ridesharing services out of business by imposing overly burdensome regulations.

Earlier this spring, the cab companies muscled through two pieces of legislation (House Bill 4075 and House Bill 5331) that will significantly limit the number of ridesharing drivers on the road, despite their growing popularity. This was a not-so-stealthy tactic to pre-empt Chicago’s ordinance, which calls for comprehensive and sensible regulations that ensure public safety, consumer choice and accountability to the benefit of Chicago residents and the millions of visitors from around the world.

If HB 4075 is signed by Governor Quinn, Illinois would become the first state that allows taxi companies to charge unlimited amounts for rides. Imagine tens of thousands of people jumping taxis during popular events like the Taste of Chicago or Lollapalooza and, upon climbing into the backseat, being told that their fare will cost up to 15 times the normal rate. Welcome to Illinois!

The Federal Trade Commission has weighed in, warning against onerous regulations. The FTC stated that ridesharing “may provide consumers with expanded transportation options, at potentially lower prices, thereby better satisfying consumer demand, and potentially increasing competition and promoting a more economically efficient use of personal vehicles.”

To deny that ridesharing is the future is simply shortsighted. Our nation’s technological emergence has sparked a remarkable wave of innovation and entrepreneurship that has led to new conveniences and efficiencies that have made life easier for us. The legislation sitting on the Governor’s desk reinforces the jaded view of Illinois politics where obstacles are erected that end up harming consumers while claiming to protect them.

This is a significant moment not only for the ridesharing companies and those who use them, but for the state of Illinois as a whole. By vetoing the legislation, Governor Quinn would lead Illinois forward as a state that embraces innovation and technological advancement, and benefits from the new businesses and employment opportunities that follow.

It’s no surprise the cab companies are threatened by the increased competition. The real is shock is why it hasn’t come sooner.

Sincerely,

Stephen E. Schlickman
Executive Director
Urban Transportation Center
College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs
University of Illinois Chicago