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Supreme Court Blows Up Big Taxi

Apr. 28, 2017
by Bob Adelmann

Big Taxi just had a Belshazzar moment. In Chapter 5 of Daniel, Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, was hosting a feast and drinking from holy vessels that had been looted from Israel’s first temple. The hand of God appeared, writing on the wall. Daniel is called and reads it: “God has numbered your days.”

When the Supreme Court declined on Monday to consider an appeal from Big Taxi in Chicago, the handwriting was on the wall: your days are numbered.

Its days were numbered when Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services entered the Chicago market a few years ago. Offering safer, cheaper, faster, and friendlier trips than the Chicago tax cartel, the newcomers made enormous inroads. Tax medallions that were selling for $350,000 a piece in 2013 are currently going begging at $60,000. Gross revenues are down by half.

This galvanized the cartel to pressure the city council to force the newcomers to follow the same rules that had protected it since 1937: get fingerprinted, get a chauffeur’s license requiring a $300 fee and a day in class, charge the same as the cartel, have your vehicles inspected under the same rules, and so on.

When Uber and Lyft got wind of the move, they threatened to leave the city. But by then it was too late: some 90,000 Chicagoans had already signed up as drivers!

So the city council compromised: no fingerprinting for the newcomers, the license requirements could be done for free at home over the internet, they could charge what they wanted, they could skip the additional vehicle inspection requirements, etc.

But this hardly slowed down the new companies’ decimating Big Taxi, and so they sued the city, claiming that it couldn’t have two sets of rules for one industry.

Judge Richard Posner tossed the suit:


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