Ride-share companies threaten to leave Chicago if tougher regulations pass

by Sean Riley

Chicago Tribune

An ordinance requiring stricter licensing and background checks for ride-sharing drivers has been buried in a City Council committee for months. But the fast-growing industry isn't taking any chances, issuing a threat Wednesday to pull out of Chicago over the issue.

Uber's Chicago general manager, Marco McCottry, told aldermen that "ride-sharing as we know it would no longer exist in Chicago" if an ordinance passes that makes drivers for the online ride-hailing company get chauffeurs licenses like taxi drivers and fingerprint background checks.

And Lyft Vice President Joseph Okpaku told aldermen if the proposal passes, "we cannot operate under a regulatory framework like this."

"Our experience very clearly shows that if you cannot get the part-time, casual driver on board, the model fails," said Okpaku, who contended tougher regulations would deter those people.

Ald. Anthony Beale, who's been leading the council push for greater regulation of ride-sharing, said the executives' claims were overblown.

"They operate under 'the sky is falling' tactics," Beale said after the meeting. "That means they're always going to say 'we're going to pull out.' They're always going to go to the extreme to try to scare people instead of sitting down at the table trying to work something out."

Chicago, however, does not appear likely to join the ranks of Austin, Texas, where Uber and Lyft pulled out this month after a vote to require driver fingerprinting. [MORE]