Dateline: Chicago 06 Jan 2020
Byline: The Not Fake News, Actual
The fix is in, boys and girls. Chicago is as crooked as always. I know, I know; that’s not actually news. But it’s what I’ve got, so read it and shaddap.
It’s dead on the downtown Chicago streets today. The weather’s turned off nice and there’s a few people walking, but the normal traffic is… well, it’s downtown Chicago, so the traffic is deadly. Pedestrians, look both ways crossing one-way streets, and don’t jaywalk inside the Loop or you’re rare steak on the hoof.
The great thing about the Loop is, of course, the Loop. Cheap mass transit anywhere you want to go, so long as you want to go to City Hall. Not that anyone working at City Hall uses mass transit; it’s cabs and the occasional limo, and every now and then you see some nut on his bike. It ain’t that warm. So instead of mass transit, most everyone that isn’t rich uses Uber or Lyft, or maybe walks the Pedway from here to there.
Today, the punitive tax on rideshares goes into effect. It’s $3 more per ride, with an extra $5 tacked on if you’re traveling to or from the airport, Navy Pier, or any other place a tourist might be interested in going. Cabs, on the other hand, don’t pay a dime more. Makes you wonder whose brother-in-law owns the cab company.
(Actually, we already know who. It’s the same guy that runs the private parking meter concession, even though you won’t find his name on the paperwork. City signed that away in order to stop employing metermaids, and now some private firm is raking in the bucks. The proposal never saw a vote; never made a hearing. It was announced one night and signed into law fifteen minutes later.)
They say the reason for the rideshare tax is to fight congestion. The difference between today’s traffic and Friday’s? Twice as many cabs; next to no Ubers. Same number of cars. City Hall has a fine justification, with detailed arguments and economic studies and charts and graphs, but honestly since the parking meter thing I don’t give a… care what City Hall says about anything. But I do care what people think, so I asked some Uber drivers and some cabbies.
Sishuh has been driving in Chicago since Uber first started here; he’s young, but he’s seen it all. According to him, it’s all about the part-timers that work two hours a day maybe, picking up trips at Rush Hour for some pocket money. They’re not professionals, so they don’t know how to handle traffic or navigate the one-way maze. His idea is, send Downtown runs to Diamond or Platinum drivers first and keep the amateurs off the field. Uber already has the tech in place to handle it; all that’s needed is for Chicago to ask and it’s done.
He’s not the only one that blames this on the amateurs. Amin has been driving thirty-nine years, the past three in Uber, and he’s going back to cabs next week. He figures there’s no money in it any more, and it’s all because there’s too damn many Uber drivers in Chicago. It’s half an hour between fares. (I didn’t ask his rating; some tough questions you don’t ask when your life depends on him cutting off that bus properly.)
Raj, on the other hand, has always driven cab and always will. He’s mostly upset that, now recreational pot is legal, he’s lost his second income stream. Apparently his off-the-books delivery scheme was extremely lucrative. On the other hand, he’s optimistic; he knows some nice ladies who are looking for a date, and am I interested?
Mike the doorman doesn’t care one way or the other. According to him, Uber drivers are more polite; unlike cabbies, they never try to run him down if he doesn’t get out of the damn way fast enough. Down side is, a cab is in and out and done; an Uber takes ten times as long. And there’s one more thing: Uber riders don’t tip the doorman because they don’t carry cash. Always tip the doorman, people.
Another doorman I talked to is named DeShawn (and I hope I spelled that right). His thoughts on the matter were complex since he also drives Uber part time. The trouble with Uber, he says, is that some beginners don’t know to turn off their WiFi and let 4G handle their GPS around the tall buildings, because it gets so messed up downtown. About the tax, he figures it’ll work out OK, one way or the other. And I suppose he’s right at that.
I honestly don’t know, folks. It might be something as simple as getting people to carry cash again. Maybe that’s the real motivation: professional courtesy between thieves. The muggers and panhandlers have been missing out, so they asked their union brothers downtown to give them a boost. And downtown is always happy to oblige a fellow crook.
Hey, don’t blame anyone but yourselves, Chicago. You voted for ’em, ya schmucks. Maybe you might think about a second political party. I hear there’s Socialists running this time around.
Off to get a deep dish pizza, or maybe a hotdog run through the garden. This is your Not Fake News editor, signing off.