Car 6

Car 6

Monday, August 25, 2014

Part 1: Why I Won't Go to Tinley Park Anymore!

I am breaking away from the normal stories for a spell to do some tub thumping. Some of this will be rants on Uber, education into my industry and in this case, regulations gone amuck.

First, a little background. In our fleet we have three different classifications of vehicles. We have taxis. Taxis are vehicles that have meters and can pick up "flags" for business. We have Livery Plated vehicles. Most of them are minivans. A livery plated vehicle are mostly thought of as limos, but it does not have to be one. A livery plated vehicle is meant to do non-metered, pre arranged pricing transportation. You book, or make an appointment, for one of these. Finally we have two larger vehicles. A club van and a bus. These have PT (personal transportation) plates on them and run similarly to livery, but require different plating due to the amount of passengers they can accommodate.

Second. As a Taxi driver you are an independent contractor and if you do not own your own taxi, you lease a taxi. In my case I am under what is called a co lease. A portion of my fares pays the lease for my taxi. Other models have you pay a flat rate per day or per week and you get to keep all your fares. I prefer the method I am under because even on a slow day, it is VERY rare to run in the red. To drive a taxi as an independent contractor I had to get a chauffeur's license. To get one I had to go to the City of Joliet and present them a clean motor vehicle report and pay a fee for them to do a criminal background screening. I also had to pay for a photo to be taken and a processing fee. I then got a license from the City of Joliet and recognized by the state of Illinois and neighboring states (sometimes you have interstate trips as we are near the borders of Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa).

Third. I am an independent contractor who has a relationship with a taxi company and I have to adhere to the standards they have to adhere to. To operate in Joliet they had to get a commercial license to operate. Each vehicle has to be inspected annually. Each vehicle has to have a certain level of licensing and bonding. Since we do medical transportation I am trained under HIPPA laws. They require I take a defensive driving course. They have to have their regulated rates on file with the city of Joliet and I cannot charge over or under the posted rate without special permission or arrangement. To charge more would be price gouging and unfair to consumers. To charge less would be price dumping and unfair to other taxi drivers and competing companies.

Fourth. In joliet you need a specific sticker to flag in joliet. If I am in another city that has requirements like a sticker or a shield, I can drop off there and I can do pre arranged pick ups and round trips, but I cannot (and will not ) flag there. Other companies and drivers have done their due diligence in that area, it would be disrespectful and illegal to flag there.

One night I was assigned a livery plated vehicle and I had a round trip from Joliet to Tinley Park for a  couple and their friend who were going to a Toby Keith concert at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater. The rate was pre arranged as was the time to pick up and drop off. I was specifically requested by the party booking the ride. The couple is a husband and wife with teen kids and they were so happy to get out of the house for a night. The husband is a Cook County Investigative Officer who has a demanding job with a weight of responsibility on him all the time. He just wanted to get out and relax. His wife is a bus driver and I know that her job has similar pressures to mine. Their friend is retired and saved up for this night out on his limited income. They were in a good mood, they are good people and I also know that they are good tippers.

When I drop them off, I talk to security and ask them where I should pick up my passengers. They tell me to go with the taxis outside of gate 1. I tell security I am a livery vehicle. They tell me to go to gate 1 anyway and arrive at least an hour and a half before the show ends. My passengers are present when this occurs so we are all on the same page. Gate 1.

I leave, head back to Joliet and swap out for metered runs for a few hours. When the time is right I get the minivan ready to pick them up. I pull through security and get into the taxi line outside of gate 1 as instructed by security. I parked in line, rolled down my windows, and started reading a book knowing I had at least 90 minutes to kill.

About 30 minutes in a cab driver from another company came over to me and introduced himself. He told me I did not have a sticker to pick up in Tinley. I assured him that I was on a prearranged pick up and was not flagging in his turf. He appreciated that and then went on to tell me to watch myself because drivers from MacNamara Taxi were likely gonna drop a dime on me and call the police anyway. I told him they are welcome to do what they want. I am not flagging, my log is in order and I am not even in a taxi. I am in livery. He tells me that in Tinley Park, that does not matter and to be careful. MacNamara and the police did it to him all the time and finally ticketed him $750 and impounded his vehicle. Even though their laws were an overreach, he had to spend a small fortune to operate there. Then he told me that livery vehicles are supposed to be in gate six. Now THAT got my attention.

I approached the security officer at the taxi line and explained I was livery and a cab driver told me that I should be in a lot by gate six. The officer looks at my minivan and says to stay parked where I am at and NOT to relocate or I will be removed from the premises. So I remain. When I walk back to my vehicle there are two MacNamara guys by my minivan jotting down information. I look at them and ask if I can help them with something. The tall one walks away fast and gets in his taxi and locals the door. The one with the mohawk dressed like an extra in a mad max film stares me down for a moment and walks away chuckling.  I get on the radio and advise dispatch of my situation and they informed me that the driver who drives the club van had some kind of trouble last week and when they pointed out to the police that he was not a taxi, all was well. I gave a ten 4 to that and went back to my book and noticed mohawk man walk by my vehicle every so often.

Ten minutes later three squads pulled up and surround my vehicle. I get on the radio and tell dispatch that I a have attracted multiple police attention and will advise as to the situation if I need assistance. One officer took point and approached the driver side window while the other officers surrounded the vehicle with their right hands on their hips by their holsters.

I roll down the window and the following convo happens.

Me: Can I help you officer?

Officer: I notice you do not have a Tinley taxi sticker.

Me: No, officer, I do not have a Tinley taxi sticker. I'm not here to...

Officer: You will follow us off the premises and we will escort you to the city limits.

Me: Officer, I am not here to flag and I am not a taxi. I am in a livery plated vehicle on a non metered run.

Officer: You are in a fucking taxi asshole. It says so right there on the side of your TAXI!

Me: That is the name of the company. We also have PT plated vehicles and Livery vehicles. If you look at my plates you will see that this is livery and if you look at my dash you will see that I have no meter.

Officer: You are in this line you are a taxi.

Me: I am in this line because that is what security instructed me to do.

Officer: Because your a fucking taxi.

Me: No, I am not.

Officer: Yes you are. You are going to be escorted out now.

Me: Officer, I really hope you don't do that. I have customers that pre paid for me to take them here and take them home. They are counting on me to be here and I am not breaking any laws.

Officer: You will follow me off the premises and outside the city limits now.

(Even though I was in the right, I saw this battle was being lost. I needed to call in reinforcements)

Me: Officer, before we leave the premises, I need to advise dispatch of the situation on the radio. May I have a moment to do that.

Officer: I tried to do this the easy way for you. Here's what's gonna happen shit for brains. You are getting a $750 fine, your TAXI is being impounded and you are going to be arrested. Give me your license and do not leave the vehicle or make any sudden moves.

Me: Do you also want my City of Joliet and state recognized Chauffer's license and log book showing the documentation of my pre arranged livery and the license certification and insurance documentation that shows this is not a taxi?

Officer: It's too late for all that shit. Gimme your license and your chauffeurs license.

As he walked away I heard him say "See how smart your fuckin mouth is in jail".

At this point I got on the radio with dispatch and informed them that the officer told me my vehicle was being impounded and I was getting fined and arrested. She wakes up our operations manager and both her and the ops manager are calling the Tinley Park watch commander and actually telling him what the state laws are. Me? I want to take my customers home. That is all I want to do, but I am also resigned to the fact that I am getting arrested for the first time in my life. I am okay with this because I know I will have my day in court and I am in the right. I never raised my voice. I never used vulgar terms and I tried to explain my situation.

Ten minutes went by and I was still sitting in my vehicle. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw the team of officers huddled in a conversation. The almost arresting officer approached my window and starts talking to me again.

Officer: I don't know whatever the hell you think you are, but you cannot be in this lot. You have to go over to gate 6 and they'll charge you for parking there. This lot is taxis only.

Me: Thank you officer. What is the best way to get to gate six?

Officer: Turn left out of the lot. Turn right at the end. Take it all the way around to the other side and and turn right again.

I started to leave the lot and two MacNamara Taxis pulled out in front of me to block my path out. I looked to the officers for help in leaving the lot as instructed and two of them turned their backs on me and went into a huddled conversation. I had to drive through a muddy field to get out. It had been raining earlier and the area was flooded and it was tricky not getting stuck. I pulled around to gate six and a security guard approached me.

Guard: What are you doing here?

Me: Parking to pick up a passenger.

Guard: Check in was over an hour ago.

Me: I was told to go to gate one by security and Tinley PD sent me over here.

Guard: $50

Me: Here. May I get a receipt.

Guard: Your lucky I let you in. Park over there by the stretch.

I park. I advise dispatch as to where I am and they give me the phone number of the passenger. I sent him a text informing him that I am at gate six instead of gate one. He responded okay.

A few minutes later a man from security with a different color jacket than the rest comes over to me and tells me I am not supposed to be parked where I am at. I tell him the whole story including the $50 fee without receipt and he asks me which guard took my money. I tell him. He went away and a few minutes later came back to my window, gave me $50 and told me to stay where I was at. "You've been through enough for one night."

I got my passengers. I took them home. They still tipped well.

In part 2 I will cover their regulations and the overreach on their laws and my conversations with police and city officials as well as Taxi drivers from the East Coast.

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