My effort was greeted with a torrent of obscenities..
The driver didnít want to take my card despite a placard of regulations in the
cab that said he must do so.
When I pointed out the stack of credit card carbons on his dashboard, he
hollered even louder.
It seems some drivers want the taxicab business to be strictly cash.
In the last year, or so, an alternative to cabs come on the scene. Itís called
Folks can use an app on their cellphone to get a ride. No cash changes hands.
Itís all done online.
The drivers for Uber and its competitor, Lyft, have been screened by those
companies and are driving their own cars. The pair get high marks for customer
But the competition had the owners of some big-time Chicago cab companies
The firms operate what economists call an oligopoly, thatís when a handful of
big businesses control the market.
In June, the median price for a Chicago taxi medallion was $339,625. There
arenít too many cab drivers who can fork over that kind of dough. So these big
taxi outfits buy the medallions and rent them out to drivers for a portion of
The medallions are issued by Chicago City Hall.
So, the bureaucrats like it because it keeps money pouring into city coffers.
The cab companies like the system because they can continue to control the
market. And the politicians like it because they get campaign contributions from
the cab companies.
Thatís crony capitalism at its worst.
The group that isnít being looked after in this arrangement is the consumer.
Consumers suffer because they have to pay inflated prices.
[to top of second column]
And even though the industry is regulated, service can be Ė as my
experience shows Ė pretty lousy.
But now there is a game changer in the mix ó Uber.
So what did the taxi company fat cats do when they found out they
might have to really compete
They started hiring Springfield lobbyists left and right. And
they tried to force onerous regulations on Uber and Lyft.
The measure passed with the help of a coalition of Chicago Democrats
and downstate Republicans.
To his credit, Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed the measure this past week.
He cited the ďhome ruleĒ powers of cities such as Chicago as a
ďThe principle of home rule is an important one,Ē Quinn said in a
statement. ďI am vetoing this legislation because it would have
mandated a one-size-fits-all approach to a service that is best
regulated at the local level.Ē
But, governor, it is local government that created the cost
prohibitive taxicab medallion system in the first place. It has
helped keep the cost of cab rides high for consumers and prevented
entrepreneurs lacking the money from going into the cab business.
This is service best regulated not at the state or local level.
The best regulators are the consumers themselves.
If they donít like the service, they wonít use it.
Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and a journalist with
Illinois News Network, a project of the Illinois Policy Institute.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers can
subscribe to his free political newsletter by going toILNEWS.ORG or
follow his work on Twitter @scottreeder
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