J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · March 24, 2014

Chicago, Ill.—Today, a coalition of Chicago ridesharing drivers has partnered with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to stop Chicago’s taxicab companies from shutting them down. The taxicab companies’ lawsuit, which was filed against the city of Chicago by taxi companies in February 2014, demands that federal judges freeze the city’s transportation regulations in order to protect cab owners from competition. The motion filed today by the ridesharing drivers seeks to have the companies’ baseless lawsuit dismissed, or barring that, at least prevent the city from caving to the cab companies’ demands.

“There is nothing in the Constitution that protects taxicab companies from competition,” said Anthony Sanders, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit public interest law firm that represents the ridesharing drivers. “Unfortunately, if the taxi companies’ lawsuit is successful, Chicagoans will be left out in the cold hailing cabs while the rest of the country amends regulations to spur technological innovation and hold entrenched businesses at bay.”

Chicago’s outdated regulations serve to keep the number of taxis on the streets artificially low, resulting in long waits, poor service, and, in many neighborhoods, a complete inability to call or hail a cab. Armed with little more than a smartphone and their car, a small group of entrepreneurs are driving innovation in an industry that’s been dominated by a cartel of cab owners and a regulatory framework originally drafted in the early 20th century.

But wherever there is an innovative startup company, there is also likely to be a politically-powerful, entrenched industry that seeks regulatory protection. Chicago’s taxi companies have struck back against ridesharing in a big way. But today ridesharing drivers are fighting back and intervening in the lawsuit to fight for economic liberty and the basic principle that incumbent businesses have no legal right to economic protectionism.

“We’re not going to take this sitting down, unless it ends with us sitting down in our cars picking up riders,” said Dan Burgess, a ridesharing driver who joined in today’s motion. “Smartphone-based ridesharing technology offers drivers a way to make ends meet using resources they already have. At the same time, it gives riders new, cost-effective modes of transportation. Chicago should be celebrating innovation, not debating whether or not to crush it,” he added.

Burgess, along with Ted Liu and Dustin Morby, who also joined in today’s motion, want to keep earning money by giving people rides, and they do not want to be arrested for it.

“Customers aren’t property, and competition isn’t theft,” said Renée Flaherty, an IJ attorney on the case. “Consumers and entrepreneurs, not lawyers and city officials, should be deciding which transportation options are available in Chicago.”