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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Chicago Cabbies Suck Out Loud - And It Costs Them!

It's only July, but cab drivers here in Chicago have already amassed 2,600 citations for the year - bringing in a total of $280,246 in fines as revenue for the city. These citations and fines come from a variety of reasons, such as unclean/damaged vehicles, reckless driving, abusive behavior and my personal pet peeve, talking on cell phones. That's right, cab drivers in Chicago are NOT allowed to use cell phones while driving, even if they use a hands-free device to do so. It's against the law, and if a call is made to complain about a driver talking on a cell phone, that's a $200 citation and a 5-day license suspension for the first offense. A second offense results in a $750 fine and 29 days of suspension.

If you think I'm here to complain about the "harsh penalties" and rally in favor of cabbies - you're dead wrong.

I'm calling the citizens of Chicago to unite and TAKE ACTION and get more of these citations going!

These are the strings that came attached to a cab rate hike that was given to the cabbies in 2005. City Hall allowed for what amounts to an 11.7% rate increase based on things like the base fare, additional passengers and the general per-mile rate. In return, drivers got a few added sanctions to make sure that the rate increase was worth it to the customers. They can be cited and fined for everything from a bad attitude to an untidy cab to letting a non-cabbie drive the cab. And, of course, talking on a cell phone. Here's a rundown of the citation count, revenue generated and average cost per citation as of June:

Discourtesy - 1,197 citations - $83,030 in fines (Average: $69 each)
Reckless Driving - 1,086 citations - $39,696 in fines (Average: $37 each)
Operating Unclean/Damaged Vehicles - 227 citations - $19,015 in fines (Average: $84 each)
Cell Phone Use - 150 citations - $13,790 in fines (Average: $92 each)
Abusive Behavior - 139 citations - $12,779 in fines (Average: $92 each)
Overcharging Customers - 39 citations - $2,580 in fines (Average: 66 each)
Allowing a Non-Licensed Public Chauffeur to Operate the Cab - 49 citations - $8,325 in fines (Average: $170 each)

Only 150 citations for cell phone usage?? I had never known that you could simply call 311 with the cab number to file a complaint about cab drivers using their cell-phones, even if they're hands-free, to get one of these citations issued (and get them suspended for 5 days). If I had called in every cabbie this year alone that I watched talking on a cell phone - just the ones I've been IN this year - that number could probably have already hit 200.

That's why I'm encouraging ANYONE in Chicago who uses a taxi to be vigilant and start calling these in. I'd held off because while I knew it was wrong for a driver to use a cell phone while driving, I had no idea that the hands-free was also illegal when it comes to cabbies, and the punishment that gets doled out as a result of a complaint. Now that I know this is a Chicago fact, as well as HOW to report these cabbies (best done through 311 and not the taxi's service number printed in the taxi) - I'm going to start.

We need a change. Cabbies are already reportedly on the march about raising the fare by another 10% due to "rising gas prices" - foolishly not realizing that higher gas prices means people are more likely to take a cab rather than drive, which gives them more business and more opportunities to make money. Let's try and get them to adhere to the sanctions they agreed to back in 2005 for the LAST rate hike before we even consider for one nanosecond the idea of raising their rates.

After all, what's the point of raising the rates to use a taxi if they're just going to keep giving more and more of it back to the government to pay for all of their citations for breaking their sanctions?

The original article with the numbers

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