Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Chicago — The Illinois Limousine Association (ILA) has been rallying both its members and resources after joining an existing federal lawsuit against the City of Chicago over the city’s unfair treatment of taxis and liveries as compared to TNCs.

In September 2015, the judge presiding over the case held that the plaintiffs—at the time, members of the taxi industry as well as one limousine company—had stated a claim that the city’s unequal treatment of taxis as compared to TNCs violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Shortly thereafter, the plaintiffs asked the judge to enter a preliminary injunction that would order the city to stop making unfair distinctions between taxis and TNCs. Before the judge ruled on that motion, the city proposed amendments to its transportation ordinance that would allow TNCs to perform pickups and drop-offs at O’Hare and Midway International airports.

Green-lighting TNC operations at the airports was part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s budget package, which City Council passed last month. The legislation regarding TNCs—referred to as TNPs, or Transportation Network Providers, in the city’s regulations—was pushed ahead on an expedited schedule. The public had only two weeks, from November 2 to November 16, to comment on the policy. Well before the city had stopped accepting public feedback, however, O’Hare had already begun allocating TNC-only space to its upper level.

On November 9, in response to the city’s proposed amendments, ILA’s board of directors voted on and approved a motion to hire legal counsel and join the existing federal lawsuit. ILA hired Miller Shakman & Beem—the same firm representing the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit. On November 13, the plaintiffs asked the judge for permission to amend not only the complaint to add the ILA and other livery plaintiffs but also the motion so the preliminary injunction includes relief on behalf of the livery plaintiffs.

The judge granted both requests and, on November 25, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint as well as an amended motion for preliminary injunction that asked for equal treatment for both liveries and taxis as compared to TNCs regarding driver qualifications, vehicle requirements, and annual fees. The plaintiffs also asked the judge to prevent the city from implementing the new and unfair rules allowing TNCs preferential treatment regarding airport access, staging and pick-up locations.

The city’s regulations became effective November 20: Lyft and Uber have been granted operating permission at O’Hare and Midway.

Before they are granted permission to begin airport drop-offs and pickups, TNC drivers must register with the city, undergo airport training, and affix identifying signage to their vehicles, as well as pay $5 every time they enter airport property.

TNCs are allowed access only to certain parts of either airport: at O’Hare, the upper level of the domestic concourse between Terminals 1 and 2 and Terminals 2 and 3, as well as a designated lower-level spot for international flights; at Midway, TNC drivers can only drop-off and pick up passengers at the south end of the terminal’s upper level. Fifteen parking spots at Midway’s cell phone lot will be set aside for TNC drivers.

In the meantime, ILA President Tracy Raimer of Your Private Limousine says that moral and financial support both within the ILA and from the industry has been astounding.

ILA President Tracy Raimer “We’ve received an overwhelming response from the membership,” she said. “It wasn’t just companies in Chicago: We had companies outside the area who also sent in money to support our fight. I think that shows the ILA board made the right decision going forward with this.” The ILA has raised more than $40,000 from members and supporters and the ILA board approved a $30/vehicle member assessment to help cover legal fees.

The ILA’s next move is to keep an eye on TNC activity at the airports to make sure they’re operating within legally designated boundaries. As the association had until November 25 to file its injunction, it is currently waiting for the judge’s ruling in response; the timeline of both the city and the ILA’s additional responses will push into early 2016.

“Best case scenario is that we’re on a level playing field with TNCs,” Raimer said. “Even if they were to give concessions—such as making it easier to license our chauffeurs, instead of it being a three-month process or the large fees we pay to license them, and even the fees we pay for the plates on our vehicles—it still means absolutely nothing if they don’t allow us to pick up in the same timeframe as the TNCs. On a normal day, it takes us 10 to 12 minutes and can take upwards of 30 minutes to pick up; if TNCs are picking up within five minutes, there’s no way we can compete with that.”

The ILA will hold an open board meeting January 6 in Des Plaines.

Visit illinoislimousineassociation.com for more information.

[CD1215]