Why it’s TIME for UberX to Take Flight at Chicago’s Airports

At least 15 minutes. Sometimes 25. And on the worst nights, I’ve waited more than an hour. After a long day traveling on an airplane, the last thing I want to do is wait in a long taxi line at O’Hare airport.

But this week, I, and many other Chicagoans, could get more of my time back if aldermen vote to allow rideshare services to pick-up passengers at Chicago’s airports. The time has come.

While more than 30 airports around the country already offer rideshare, Chicago is among the handful of cities that does not. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed changing that with a plan that would allow Uber and Lyft to offer another transportation option at O’Hare and Midway. The fees collected for those rides would contribute an additional $20 million in sorely-needed revenue to city coffers.

But this isn’t just about my conveniences and helping the city budget. It’s about economic opportunity for more Chicagoans.

Uber drivers can drop passengers off at the airports, but are then forced to drive back into the city with an empty car, often costing them more than an hour stuck in traffic. If they can drop people off, they should be able to pick people up and turn that wasted time into money.

And while taxis claim they should continue to own exclusive rights to airport pick-ups or else they’ll go out of business, it hasn’t turned out that way in the past. After Uber began serving San Francisco International Airport, the number of people using taxis there slightly increased, even as rideshare services collectively provided hundreds of thousands of additional trips per month. The facts show adding the option of rideshare at the airport increases the number of people using for-hire transportation — not the other way around.

But let’s face it, taxicab companies and medallion owners will never welcome competition from rideshare- at the airport or anywhere else. And they, along with some others, have turned their nose up at the economic opportunity provided by companies like Uber and Lyft, saying it’s not full-time work with typical benefits.

They’re right about one thing — the majority of rideshare drivers do not use the Uber platform as a primary source of their income. In Chicago, more than 50 percent of Uber drivers use the app less than 10 hours a week to earn extra money.

Attacking these flexible opportunities ignores the economic reality in Chicago and across the country. U.S. wages are continuing to stagnate and participation in the labor force is changing. In Chicago, Uber is creating new economic opportunities in many areas and communities. More than 20 percent of uberX drivers live on Chicago’s south and west sides. Forty percent are African-American, and more than 25 percent are Hispanic. More than 30 percent are women!

Approving rideshare access at Chicago’s airports will support these drivers and empower them to earn more money. It will also give travelers like me another choice to get home from the airport.

I can take Uber from the airport in New York, Washington, DC, just about everywhere I travel, even Hawaii! If Chicago wants to continue to be a world-class destination, rideshare services must be allowed to satisfy high consumer demand. The time has come!