Uber and Lyft are threatening to leave Chicago if a rideshare ordinance that was unanimously approved Friday by a joint City Council committee passes the full council next week.
"It would make true ridesharing impossible," Chelsea Wilson, a Lyft spokeswoman, said in a statement following the committee vote. "Because of this, we will be forced to cease operations in Chicago if this ordinance becomes law.”
The Ridesharing Reform Ordinance, which passed out of a joint Transportation and License Committee on Friday, would require drivers to obtain restricted public chauffeur licenses. This includes protections like fingerprinted background checks, drug testing and city debt checks.
The ordinance will now move to the full City Council for a vote.
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The ridesharing industry has pushed back against fingerprinted background checks, physical exams and drug tests for all their Chicago drivers. Companies warned against what could happen to the industry if the ordinance ultimately passes.
Wilson said the ordinance "forces part-time Lyft drivers into an onerous, outdated model, requiring hundreds of dollars in fees just to share a seat in their car."
Chicago's City Council has argued that the ordinance would level the playing field between rideshare services and the city's struggling taxi industry. A similar ordinance passed in Austin last month, and both companies pulled out of the city.
Ald. Anthony Beale, the Chicago ordinance's sponsor, praised the legislation Friday and called on fellow lawmakers to approve the measure.
“I applaud the committee for sending the message that rideshare company drivers need to follow the same rules as other for-hire drivers to ensure public safety,” Beale said in a statement. “Now it’s up to my colleagues to enact the ordinance to make sure our ridesharing services are safe and accountable.”
Uber Chicago General Manager Marco McCottry noted Uber already operates under Chicago guidelines that require criminal background checks for drivers and vehicle safety checks. He said "costly and complicated barriers for drivers" would prevent them from becoming drivers, taking away affordable rides in the city.
"We love Chicago," McCottry said in a statement. "But the ordinance that advanced today would eliminate ridesharing as we know it here."
"There is no need to harm one industry to help another," he said. "We continue to urge aldermen to reject this ordinance and instead modernize taxi's rules to make life easier for their drivers."
An Uber petition to keep the company in Chicago has received over 100,000 signatures.