Chicago could become the first major city in the country with a puking ordinance if cab drivers get their way.
Chicago taxi drivers proposed a package of fee and fare hikes Thursday designed to offset their plunging income during the recession. Among the more controversial revenue-boosting ideas brought to the City Council is charging customers $50 for vomiting in cabs.
If enacted, Chicago would become one of America's least friendly cities for drunks and people who eat bad shellfish. Customers who barf in cabs in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, D.C., Houston or San Francisco may face the driver's wrath, but they won't see any additional charges.
"No, we do not have a puking fee," Boston Police spokesman Joe Zanoli told the Huffington Post. "To my knowledge it's free to puke in a cab."
Raymond Turner, president of Yellow Cab Houston, said Friday that of the nearly 3.7 million cab trips his company makes yearly only a fraction involve incidents of reverse peristalsis.
"It's a fairly rare event," Turner said. "From my perspective, putting a city ordinance that applies to all cab rides for something that happens only three or four times a month is not very prudent."
Turner added that while Houston has no law allowing for a fee, drivers often work out arrangements with customers who ralph while in transit. Some passengers agree to pay for a car wash, while others give larger tips.
But proponents of the mandatory barfing surcharge argue that such arrangements leave drivers at the mercy of crabby and sometimes incoherent customers.
Plus, even if they do get compensated extra, drivers still must stop to clean up the mess, wasting time that could be spent getting additional fares.
Dena Reed, general counsel for the District of Columbia Taxicab Commission, agreed that drivers often strike deals with customers to clean up their puke but said that such deals are, nonetheless, not allowed.
"No official fee can be imposed on a customer for throwing up in the cab," Reed said. "You can't unofficially do that, either."
Even in the hilly city of San Francisco, puking cab customers face no penalty.
"There appears not to be a fee for throwing up," said Mariana Valdez of the San Francisco Taxicab Commission. "I couldn't tell you about giving birth or cutting off your own finger."