Chicago taxi drivers: Industry is teetering toward collapse

FOX 32 NEWS - The meter is running out for Chicago’s embattled taxicab industry.

A new report says the cab business is in danger of "collapse" because of competition from ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

Cabbies say the city has tilted the playing field in favor of ride share. But City Hall says it's consumers who are embracing the new technology.

Gilbert Eranta has been driving a cab in Chicago for 25 years, but worries he may soon be grounded by economic forces beyond his control.

And he's not alone. Cabbies waiting to pick up fares in front of a downtown hotel all expressed frustration to FOX 32.

On Monday, the union representing several thousand Chicago cab drivers released a report titled: "Run Off The Road" -- detailing the seismic changes in the taxi industry since the City of Chicago opened the door to ride sharing just three years ago.

"The whole industry is being devastated. And it impacts everybody. But in particular it impacts thousands of small medallion owners, essentially small businesses in the city,” said Tracey Abman of AFSCME Council 31.

The report says more than 1,300 of the city's 7,000 cab medallions have either been surrendered or foreclosed on by banks.

At the same time, the number of vehicles registered to ride share companies in the Chicago area has climbed past 220-thousand and face less regulation than the taxi industry.

"The city, because of their regulation, has helped create this crisis. The city should step up to work with us, partner with us to help solve it,” Abman said.

The city says it is working to level the playing field by approving a 15-percent fare increase, reducing fines, introducing a universal taxi app and extending vehicle age limits for fuel efficient cars.

A spokesperson writes: "Transportation companies compete for customers, and ultimately it is the consumer who makes the choice. We continue to have ongoing discussions with cab drivers and owners about further reforms."

The downturn in the cab business is reflected in the price of a taxi medallion, once worth about 350-thousand dollars now selling for under 60-thousand, if a buyer can be found.

The report warns if the taxi business fails, it will hurt riders with disabilities or those who don't have credit cards.

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