Naperville to license taxi companies, no longer individual drivers

Taxi drivers in Naperville will face lighter city regulations next year, but still will go through more oversight than ride-share drivers for services such as Uber and Lyft.

The city council on Tuesday voted unanimously to loosen its taxi procedures so the city will license each company doing business in town, not each individual driver.

"All we're doing now is shifting responsibility to companies who employ taxi drivers," Police Chief Robert Marshall said. "We support that."

The Naperville Police Department will still conduct background checks of the driving records and local police contacts of each driver, and companies will be required to sign a document saying all drivers have been fingerprinted within the past five years to show they have not been convicted of any felonies, said Kavita Athanikar, deputy city attorney and city prosecutor.

"This ordinance as written is the minimum that we need to do for our residents," city council member Rebecca Boyd-Obarski said, "so when they hail a taxi, they can trust that we've at least done a background check and there's some sense of security."

For about the past decade, Naperville has required each person wanting to drive a taxi to go through a five-month application process with the city clerk's office and police that includes a background check, fingerprinting, vehicle inspection, taxi meter inspection and proof of insurance. Each year about 280 drivers for 11 companies apply.

During that time, Marshall said, the department has recommended denial of the applications of six drivers.

The low number of unqualified taxi applicants - along with a desire to level the playing field between taxis and ridesharing services - led council members John Krummen and Kevin Coyne and Mayor Steve Chirico to originally support removing Naperville's taxi licensing procedures altogether.

"In the vein of being fair to all - and that's what I think government should be is fair - I think we should remove this ordinance," Krummen said.

In a world of unlimited resources, Krummen said he would support more regulation of ridesharing drivers, instead of less rules for taxi drivers. But with limited dollars for police, he said he would rather the department spend its money and time on other initiatives, such as pursuing drug dealers.

"The benefit of this regulation is minimal," Coyne said about taxi licensing. "I don't see much harm in removing it."

The new licensing procedures for taxi companies will go into effect next year. The city plans to begin the process by placing application materials online Sept. 1.

Naperville could 'level the playing field' between taxis, ride-sharing

Naperville could loosen taxi regulations

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