City Council okays taxi surcharge

The Chicago City Council today unanimously passed a taxi surcharge that is likely to add $1 to the cost of a cab ride.

The law, which takes effect April 28, is aimed at helping cab drivers struggling with high gas prices.

It tacks a 50-cent fuel surcharge onto the metered fare when gas prices rise over $2.70 per gallon for seven consecutive business days. When the price exceeds $3.20 for seven consecutive business days, the surcharge increases to $1.00.

While cab drivers welcomed the relief, many called for a permanent fare increase when the city's transportation committee held hearings on the issue this week.

The city's cab drivers last received a fare increase in 2005. Since that time gas prices have risen from an average of $2.20 per gallon to an average of $3.35 per gallon for March 28, the city says.

Mayor Richard M. Daley says he's pleased with the surcharge. The city is prepared to revise it upward if necessary, he says.

"I think it balances the needs of cab drivers with those of passengers," says Mayor Richard M. Daley. "Will we revisit it? Of course, if gas prices keep going up, we're prepared to revisit it."

In other news, the Council passed a law requiring junkyards and recycling facilities to log descriptions of metal items they purchase. They will also be required to copy sellers' state-issued ID cards and photograh sellers who do not have identification.

The ordinance is aimed at stemming the theft of copper and other valuable metals from homes and vehicles.

The City Council also:

*Approved spending $16.7 million in tax increment financing (TIF) funds to improve accessibility at 16 public schools. Chicago Public Schools will contribute an additional $23 million to the renovation of 11 additional schools. The expenditures are part of a five-year CPS initiative to bring a total of up to 77 existing schools into compliance with the ADA.

*Awarded a $1.5 million settlement to resolve a lawsuit by a woman who claimed that she was sexually assaulted by an off-duty police officer in 2004. The officer, Sergeant John Herman, was convicted on several counts of aggravated sexual assault and police misconduct in conjunction with the assault earlier this year.

*Granted landmark status to the Milwaukee Avenue District. The district, which lies primarily along the 1200-1600 blocks of North Milwaukee Avenue, includes 158 buildings. The broad range of architectural styles found here includes Italianate, Queen Anne, Art Deco, Classical Revival and Art and Craft, according to a press release.