City Officials: Uber, others don't have license to operate in Elgin


Daily Herald- Elena Ferrarin 3/31/2016

Transportation network companies are required to pay a $500 yearly license to operate in Elgin, but none have done that in the 10 months since the rule was enacted, city officials said.

That has irked taxi company owner Naomi Hjelm of A#1 Cab Dispatch in South Elgin.

"The fact is, ﴾the city﴿ passed an ordinance," said Hjelm, who emailed council members about the issue. "The fact is, they didn't care to check to see if anybody did what they were supposed to do. Ten months later, they still haven't done what they are supposed to do."

The city's transportation network company ordinance states the chief financial officer issues the licenses, which expire April 30. CFO Debra Nawrocki said no such licenses have been issued since the city council approved the regulations in May 2015.   "We're in the process of paying the $500 license fee and expect this to be resolved in the coming days," an Uber spokeswoman said.

City Manager Sean Stegall said city officials "are researching the issue."

By all accounts, Uber operates in Elgin, as the company's smartphone app on Wednesday showed drivers available to pick up passengers in Elgin throughout the day.

Uber driver Erick Rosas of Elgin said he picked up passengers in Elgin last week. "I do pick ups and drop offs in Elgin. There's people that use it." When he started working for Uber about six months ago, Rosas said, he contacted the city to see if he could do that in Elgin. "Nobody seemed to know about it. Then finally somebody called me about it and said it was OK."

Uber driver Eli Martin, of Barrington Hills, said he also works for the transportation network company Lyft, which ‐‐ unlike Uber ‐‐ doesn't allow drivers to pick up passengers in Elgin.

"There is a 'geofence' on the ﴾Lyft﴿ app. You can pick up north and south of Elgin," he said. "That's one of the main problems with individual towns trying to do their own regulations."

Councilwoman Rose Martinez said she was surprised to hear Uber hasn't been issued a license. Martinez said she used Uber in Elgin last year to try the service before casting a vote in favor of the regulatory ordinance. "I would rather not comment until I have more information," Martinez said.

The city's ordinance calls for fines of $500 to $2,000 for violations.

The company should pay a fine if it's in violation, Councilman Rich Dunne said. Dunne had voted "no" on the ordinance, saying it didn't go far enough in leveling the playing field between transportation network companies and taxi companies. "The Uber Chicago manager was there that night ﴾of the council vote﴿. He knows the requirement, and he chooses to be noncompliant with our city ordinances," Dunne said, adding the police department should enforce all ordinances.

Taxicab owners are required to pay $50 for a license sticker and $30 for a taxicab driver's license, both annually, to the city. Taxis older than five years must have safety inspections and submit proof of that to the police department when applying for a license sticker, the ordinance states.

The city also requires proof of inspection for transportation network vehicles older than five years, but there doesn't seem to be an explicit ordinance requirement to submit those to the police department.