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Motorcoaches and Chicago

Motorcoaches and Chicago

January 8, 2018

Many SYTA members have sent e-mail to the organization, regarding local issues affecting student travel in Chicago. SYTA is working with a coalition in Chicago to address a local business ordinance that may affect school buses and motorcoaches in downtown Chicago.

Overly broad amendments to Chapter 9-114 of the Chicago “Party Bus” Ordinance threaten Chicago’s vibrant travel and tourism trade, and reduce transportation options to the city. In April 2017, Chicago’s City Council passed and its mayor signed into law amendments to the city’s Municipal Code governing public passenger vehicles other than taxicabs.

The amendments’ stated purpose was to crack down on illegal party buses and increase safety requirements for licensed bus operators, as part of a broader effort to address increasing violence in Chicago. The amendments were introduced by the mayor after previous less stringent amendments were made to the code in 2016. The 2017 amended ordinance poses numerous new burdensome requirements significantly affecting Chicago transportation and the city’s overall travel and tourism trade.

The requirement for a vehicle with a passenger capacity of 16 or more to have both a licensed security guard on board during a trip and an operable security camera system, due to a risk of alcohol being involved with the trip, is disturbing. Involvement could include something as simple as visiting a venue where alcohol could be served—such as a gallery or museum able to serve alcohol during special events unrelated to the visit, or any number of restaurants.

While the motorcoach, tour and travel industry appreciates the interest in stopping illegal bus operations—protecting passengers and residents alike—the amended ordinance has the unintended consequence of hindering Chicago tourism. The collective motorcoach, tour and travel industry, along with the local tourism bureau, Choose Chicago, seek to work with city officials to resolve the consequences of the overly broad amendments while ensuring safety goals are met.

Among the many concerns:

  • By requiring all operations to bear the brunt of the amended requirements, the ordinance goes beyond policing illegal operations to harming legitimate carriers.
  • The amended ordinance is capturing legal, compliant coach operations outside its intended “party bus” target—operations that bring tourists and school children to the city—sending the message that Chicago does not welcome tourism.
  • Groups that have planned Chicago travel for 2018 spent significant time and effort on raising funds for the trip alone. Sudden price deviations due to legitimate operations being forced to comply with the amendment ordinance may preclude participants, or even entire groups, from traveling.
  • On average, hundreds of buses daily bring groups to Chicago. Buses are also a key mode of transport to access the airport, and provide convention and event shuttle services—operations affected by the amended ordinance.
  • Compliant operations avoiding or not serving Chicago, rather than be subject to noncompliance or misapplication of the amended ordinance. Legitimate operators that are attempting to comply may find it difficult to obtain the required licensed security guard.

SYTA will keep members informed as news becomes available. Please send any related cancelations, concerns or situations you hear about regarding this ordinance to Carylann Assante, SYTA executive director, via [email protected].