ABA has been monitoring a new ordinance that Chicago has enacted in an effort to combat illegal and dangerous party buses. You may have seen that last weekend, 17 Illinois bus companies were sent cease and desist letters following trips in Chicago. Unfortunately, some reputable companies are getting mixed in with these bad actors. Chicago is not the only city that has been cracking down on party buses, as other cities across the country are investigating illegal and unlawful transportation companies that run unsafe trips.
For those companies visiting Chicago, please be aware of the new ordinance as the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection have initiated enforcement of the legislation.
According to the Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection, the following new ordinance amendments are in effect:
1. Deter unlicensed public passenger vehicle activity and identify unlicensed activity:
- Fines for unlicensed operation minimum increased to a minimum $1,000 per count and a maximum $10,000 per count.
- Licensed vehicles must display (paint or affix) their issued City of Chicago Public Vehicle Number (COCPV) numbers on both exterior sides of the vehicle.
- Licensees must print their issued City account number (IRIS number) on all advertising materials, print or electronic, and on each contract.
- Any trip dropping off and picking up passengers, even at the same address, requires a City of Chicago license or permit. Transporting passengers into the City from outside the City to a City destination, waiting for the passengers, and then transporting the passengers to their destination outside the City is considered a round-trip transportation which requires City licensing.
Exemptions to City of Chicago Charter/Sightseeing vehicle licensing:
- US DOT registered vehicles;
- Vehicles driving through Chicago without stopping; or
- Suburban licensed vehicles performing pre-arranged one-way drop-off or pick-up, i.e. dropping passengers off in Chicago and driving without passengers back to the suburbs, or driving without passengers to Chicago and picking up passengers and driving them to the suburbs. In order for this exemption to apply, one leg of the trip must be performed without any passengers.
2. Prohibit unlawful activity on charter-sightseeing trips – the following rules apply to Chicago-licensed charter/sightseeing trips AND to any charter/sightseeing trip in a vehicle with a 16-person capacity:
- The driver must keep a copy of the trip itinerary (electronic or paper) listing the point of origin, point of destination, and each stop in between.
- The vehicle owner, driver or security guard of a charter-sightseeing vehicle must prohibit or report to police any passenger engaged in the following unlawful acts: (1) who is under the age of 21 to possess or consume alcoholic liquor; (2) to engage in disorderly conduct; (3) to possess any drug paraphernalia; (4) to unlawfully possess a firearm; (5) to discharge a firearm; (6) to hurl projectiles from the vehicle; (7) to commit indecent exposure; (8) to litter; or (9) to unlawfully possess or use cannabis or any controlled substance.
- In addition, the following additional safety measures are required in any 16-person capacity vehicle trip which involves alcohol consumption on the vehicle or at an interim stop on the trip (i.e. a stop other than the point of origin or final destination):
- At the start of the trip or before entering the City of Chicago, passengers must be informed of the prohibited unlawful acts listed above and in MCC Section 9-114-315 via an information sheet, spoken presentation, or a video. Please note BACP has produced a short video which may be shown to passengers by charter-sightseeing operators to meet this requirement. The video is posted and available for free download at
- The vehicle shall include both a licensed security guard and installed security camera equipment. Technical specifications for security camera equipment are posted and available for download at
- The trip may not stop at any Chicago public park when the park is closed.
- A violation of the prohibited acts code sections is a minimum $250 fine and a maximum $10,000 fine per occurrence.
Annual Charter/Sightseeing vehicle licenses cost $500.
In addition to issuing cease and desist orders and citing unlicensed operators, recent investigations have found the following non-compliance violations: failure to display or affix license number on exterior of vehicle, failure to post or print license number on promotional materials and contracts; failure to present itinerary (paper or electronic copy) upon request, and failure to present proof of insurance.
Please ensure your buses have all paperwork easily accessible when traveling in Chicago and elsewhere.