Although a Madison police sting operation snagged two ride-share drivers over the weekend, both Lyft and Uber have encouraged drivers to stay on the roads and have promised to pay any of the city’s hefty fines.

In an email obtained by The Badger Herald, Lyft Co-founder John Zimmer told Madison drivers the company would fight any legal actions taken against drivers, cover relevant costs and work with city officials to make policy progress. The message was sent to drivers in March after the city ordered Lyft and Uber to cease operations in a city meeting.

The email also details the friction the company ran into when it launched in California, when they received a cease and desist letter from the state’s Public Utilities Commission. By working with officials, Zimmer said the commission came to approve new regulations that classified the company’s peer-to-peer business model under a new regulatory category known as “transportation network companies.

Nick Anderson, general manager of Uber Technologies in Madison, said in an interview Tuesday the company would support drivers “100 percent” after an Uber driver was cited last Friday.

In an email to the Herald, Anderson dodged questions about whether Uber would cover any fines drives incur while operating illegally, instead characterizing ride-sharing an area of “regulatory ambiguity.”

But in an email sent to Uber drivers Tuesday, Anderson called the city’s sting operation “aggressive and unwarranted” and said Uber would also cover the cost of any citations issued to drivers.

He also said the driver who was cited in the sting is “unfazed” and continuing to provide rides to customers around the city.

Here’s the full text of the Lyft email:

Lyft Madison Drivers,

As we end our second week in Madison, I want to reach out to say thanks for joining the Lyft community. Together, we’re sparking a movement that will make life in this city safer, friendlier, and more affordable. As pioneers of people-powered transportation, we will experience exciting growth and also challenges along the way.

As you know, the Madison Transit and Parking Commission held an initial hearing yesterday on ridesharing – thanks to Justin and everyone who came to show your support! At the meeting, the Commissioners raised many questions about Lyft’s innovative model. We’re reaching out to them actively to answer those questions and educate them about how Lyft benefits the Madison community.

We have reviewed the city’s transportation codes and we believe we are following the rules. We’re also committed to working with the city to craft a permanent pathway for ridesharing. Throughout this process, you have our pledge of support. We will stand with you every step of the way, fighting any actions against drivers, covering relevant costs, and making policy progress. If you ever encounter an issue with officials on the road, call Support for our immediate help.

Across the country, the Lyft community has experienced challenges like these before. Last year, we received a cease and desist letter from the California Public Utilities Commission. We successfully met with the agency to explain how our platform works and how Lyft sets a safety gold-standard, leading them to pass new regulations creating a new category for our model. Throughout this process in California and elsewhere, we have continued operations uninterrupted. I’m confident that we’ll be able to achieve similar progress in Madison.

We’ll keep working our hardest to fight for your right to Lyft Madison to new heights, and we’ll keep you posted on how you can help. I truly believe that if we approach situations like this positively and collaboratively, our movement will grow stronger than ever.

Onward!

John Zimmer
Co-Founder, Lyft

And here’s the full text of Uber’s email to drivers:

Dear Partner,

As many of you may have heard, Mayor Soglin conducted a sting operation in Madison last weekend. One Uber partner was issued a citation on Friday afternoon.

This sting operation was aggressive and unwarented [sic]. We firmly believe that Uber’s ridesharing platform is not in violation of the current ordinances.

I want to let you know that Uber stands behind our partners 100%. If the City conducts more sting operations in the future, we will cover the cost of any citations. In the meantime, we are working with the city to develop sensible regulations that ensure a permanent home for ridesharing in Madison.

We will continue to operate and give the people of Madison a safe, reliable, convenient transportation option.

Thank you to the partners who have contacted us to show support for Uber. We are thrilled to see that our driver partners are not letting the Mayor’s backwards thinking deter them from operating. It is worth noting that the partner who received the citation is unfazed and has continued to go online and provide 5 star service here in Madison.

Here a couple articles you will find interesting.

http://host.madison.com/wsj/business/tom-still-regulation-in-a-digital-age-why-ride-sharing/article_0b0bcd76-606b-5181-88d4-890d68e672d6.html

http://badgerherald.com/oped/2014/04/21/soglins-uncompromising-stance-rideshare-programs-detrimental-madison/#.U1cNceewI6w

Thanks again and please feel free to reach out with any questions or comments, -Nick

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