Cab-top ads may fund hybrid taxis

  • By MAX FOLLMER
  • Medill News Service
  • February 03, 2006 @ 5:45 AM
A City Council committee has approved a law allowing cab companies to sell advertising space on taxi roof tops and use the proceeds to buy fuel-saving hybrid taxis.

Under the proposal, which passed the transportation committee and could go for a full Council vote Feb. 8, the cash raised by ad sales would mean passenger fares would remain flat.

"This will give us a source of revenue that is not dependent on passengers," said John Moberg, President of the Checker Taxi Association. "Our industry has been caught between rising costs and expenses, and a pretty much fixed revenue base."

The proposal calls for advertisers to pay cab companies between about $300 for a rooftop sign to about $35 for an interior ad, said Department of Consumer Services Commissioner Norma Reyes.

Cab drivers would keep 35 percent of the money raised by the ads, Reyes said. To ensure that drivers got their fair share of proceeds from ad sales, cab company owners would have to report back every month to the city, she added.

The city also stands to gain from the proposal, as both advertisers and cab companies would have to pay for the privilege of displaying these new ads. Advertisers would pay a 6 percent city lease tax for each new ad. In addition, cab owners would have to buy new $100 city permits for the right to sell ad space. One permit would be required for each roof top, door, and interior ad.

According to Reyes, there are currently no hybrid cabs in Chicago's taxi fleet. She said the city was looking at other ways of enticing cab companies to invest in hybrids.

"We are looking at some tax incentives," Reyes said. "We are looking at having cab stands that are just for [hybrid] vehicles."

While the proposal promises to ease the pain of passengers and cab companies already suffering from high fuel costs, Reyes, after the meeting, would not rule out a temporary surcharge to make up for possible hike in summer oil prices.

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