Champaign council to consider changes in taxicab regulations

Champaign council to consider changes in taxicab regulations

CHAMPAIGN — Taxicabs could be soon be subject to the first city-wide rule changes in five years.

The changes proposed for both Champaign and Urbana would do away with blanket restrictions for drivers with any felony conviction and would make some taxis display a "cash only" sign. The Champaign City Council is scheduled to vote on the matter tonight.

The changes would apply to vehicle-for-hire services, which the cities define as taxis and limousines but not ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft.

In Champaign, there are 33 companies operating 50 vehicles with 85 drivers. Twenty-four of those are single-vehicle operators with a single driver.

Should the measure pass, only drivers with certain felonies — like DUI, fraud, a sexual offense, theft, property damage or using a car to commit a felony — would be restricted from obtaining a vehicle-for-hire license. And an appeals process would be set up for denied licenses.

Executive Taxi owner Stephen Love of Champaign said these are all small changes that focus on the wrong thing.

"Focusing on taxis right now is a bad idea," he said. "This change might offer more positions to people who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to have a taxi. But do we need to loosen them?"

Love believes C-U leaders should instead focus on adding regulations for ride-hailing services. He questions the level of background checks those companies conduct and wants an even playing field where businesses like his don't bear the brunt of fees and higher standards.

"I think they've taken an attitude of 'They're not rides for hire, so we're not going to police them,'" he said of services like Uber. "When you have so much of the market with no policing, these are small things for public safety."