Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Chicago Jitney Cab War of 1950.

In the earliest days of Chicago's public transportation history, the city's buses held a rather charming distinction. They were affectionately called "Jitneys or Jits" for short, the slang term for a nickel. It wasn't until 1920 that the cost of a single bus ride increased from 5¢ to 10¢.

On August 22, 1950, Chicago Mayor Martin Kennelly ordered a crackdown on Jitney cabs operating on South Park Way (Martin Luther King Jr. Drive) and other South Side streets. The Jitney cabs carried groups of up to six passengers at a time, charging 15¢ per Person. Though this was more expensive than the current CTA fare of 12¢, it was significantly less than the meter rate on licensed cabs.

One of the very first Chicago City Buses was called a "Jitney."

The Park District held public hearings on how to deal with this problem. The Jitneys were breaking the law. The mayor warned that drivers operating without a taxi license would be arrested.

Kennelly's warnings had little effect. The Jitneys kept running. Kennelly alienated the powerful South Side congressman, William L. Dawson. Dawson and most of his constituents were African American. Since many white cab drivers wouldn't serve black passengers in 1950, the local community relied on the Jitney cabs.
A private citizen's family car is used as a Jitney cab.
FYI: Those are not bullet holes in the rear passenger door.
Kennelly was succeeded by a more politically astute mayor, Richard J. Daley. When a reporter asked him if he would do anything about the Jitneys, Daley said, "They perform a public service." And that was that. 

  • Unlicensed taxi cabs that service high-crime and overcrowded areas where licensed cabs just won't go.
  • A small bus or large car following a regular public transportation route along which it picks up and discharges passengers. In Chicago, Jitney's initially charged each passenger 5¢.
A Jitney cab is the great, great, grandfather of Uber, Lyft, and Curb. These services have become legal services for door-to-door ride services at a discounted cost of taxicabs. 

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

1 comment:

  1. My favorite seat while riding the Jitney, was the jump seat. My nephew and I would fuss about who got the jump seat for this ride. I loved riding the Jitney.


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