Drivers for ridesharing services head to a Chicago courtroom to defend themselves, as taxi drivers and legislators make moves to regulate ridesharing services. Charlie Wojciechowski reports.
Drivers from three of Chicago's ridesharing companies gathered at the Dirksen Federal Building Tuesday to file a motion to intervene in the lawsuit filed by a group of taxi owners.
Drivers from Lyft, uberX and Sidecar filed the motion seeking to dismiss the taxi owners' lawsuit that aims to regulate ridesharing.
The companies offer a smartphone app to connect riders with people offering a ride in their personal vehicle for a fee. The drivers don't have to pay for expensive city medallions like cab drivers do.
"There is no constitutional right to be free from competition," the rideshare drivers' attorney, Anthony Sanders, said. "And there is no constitutional right to have the government arrest your business competitors which is what the taxi cab companies are arguing."
The taxi owners' suit claims rideshare companies are jeopardizing public health and safety, and alleges the city allows the companies to discriminate against passengers in low-income neighborhoods. The suit also says the city is "failing to enforce its own regulations for taxi services."
"That's essentially saying we're playing with two sets of rules," attorney Michael Shakman said. "This is an administration that understands public policy and has to realize that what it's doing is poor public policy."
Ridesharing drivers call the lawsuit baseless. and said they don't think the city should cave in to the cab companies’ demands.
Dan Burgess has been a rideshare driver for Uber X, Lyft and Sidecar for 11 months, and estimates he’s given about 500 rides in his Cubs-plated Hyundai.
“We’re not going to take the taxicab companies’ lawsuit sitting down, unless it ends with us sitting down in our cars picking up riders," Burgess said.
Burgess said smartphone-based ridesharing technology supports a cost-effective mode of transportation. "Chicago should be celebrating innovation, not debating whether or not to crush it.”
"That is simply what this case is about," Sanders said, "the taxi cab owners trying to prevent the public from having different options to move around the city."
Tuesday's motion to dismiss the lawsuit comes on the same day state lawmakers introduced legislation to establish Illinois standards for ridesharing services.
"If taxi drivers and chauffeur drivers are doing it, then they should be under the same regulation," 1st District Sen. Tony Munoz said.
Chicago has proposed its own set of rules for rideshare companies, but traditional taxi drivers like Bennett Dartey say more needs to be done, because the new services are taking money out of his pocket.
"They are taking a lot of business from us. It's slow, and they are making a lot of money," Dartey said.