Chicago City Council Substitute Rideshare
ordinance ignores voice and demands of community

For months, Access Living had been working in coalition on a city rideshare ordinance. A key piece of the ordinance would require five percent of the vehicles in Transportation Network Provider Fleets (such as Uber and Lyft) to be wheelchair accessible. Provisions of the ordinance also included a complaint mechanism and a commitment to equivalent response time. Yet, leading up to the June Chicago Council meeting, a substitute ordinance was introduced. On June 22, the Chicago City Council passed the substitute Ride Share Ordinance. The substitute ordinance does not include the original disability provisions, most notably the requirement that five percent of vehicles in the Ride Share fleets be wheelchair accessible.

“The ordinance passed today is a slap in the face to the disability community,” said Marca Bristo, Access Living’s President and CEO on June 22, in response to the council vote. “There is no five percent requirement, no reference to equivalent response time, and no disability complaint mechanism.”

Under the substitute ordinance, Transportation Network Providers such as Uber and Lyft will have six months to develop a plan to improve accessibility, and another six months to implement the plan.

“The substitute ordinance is unacceptable,” Bristo said. “We have already waited two years for Rideshare companies to make a commitment to accessibility. They’ve done little to nothing in that time. The disability community needs a commitment to concrete benchmarks that will hold Uber and Lyft accountable. We have a right to equal access and equal service.”

Under the substitute ordinance, when Ride Share customers request an accessible vehicle, they will be dispatched an accessible taxi. The difference between the Uber or Lyft fare and taxi fare will be paid by the City’s WAV (Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle) Fund, a fund intended to increase the number of wheelchair accessible taxis on the road. “The intent of the WAV fund was not meant to subsidize Uber and Lyft. It was intended to subsidize the added cost of providing wheelchair accessible vehicles,” said Adam Ballard, Access Living’s Manager of Policy and Community Organizing.

“This is another example of why this substitute ordinance is a failure. It’s potentially taking accessible vehicles off the road. Just as hotels pay for an accessible taxi if the hotel shuttle is not accessible, Uber and Lyft should pay if they fail to meet the needs of disabled riders.”

Throughout the process, Mayor Emanuel and the City of Chicago didn’t consult the disability community, or the Taxi Advisory Committee, which includes several members with disabilities, for input or guidance, and shut the community out during ordinance negotiations.

Though passage of the substitute ordinance is a tremendous set back, Access Living and allies will continue to push to hold Transportation Network Providers accountable, and to ensure that disabled Chicago residents have transportation options similar to options offered non-disabled riders.