Pink fluffy mustaches have been somewhat of sore sight for city officials as rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft seek to continue business in the Madison area.
In March, Madison police ordered these ride-sharing companies to pause their operations in the city or face a $700 fine. In April, two drivers were cited for continuing to operate. In the case of Lyft, the fine was fully paid by the Lyft company.
Lyft Ambassador Andrew Scully said there has been ongoing operations from the company and he said the services are legal because of the fact that the companies are not correctly categorized as taxi companies and so the ordinances in place do not apply.
However, there has been discussion from both the company and the city to compromise on different issues, such as the controversial subject of insurance.
Cities all over the country have been concerned about the liability of drivers who were relying on their own personal car insurance. In response, Lyft has since brought all drivers under its own insurance policy when they are operating. They are now protected under a million dollar policy from the company.
Earlier this month, City Attorney Michael May requested rideshare companies issue statements about how they will comply with city ordinances within 10 days.
The deadline passed on July 11 with no update or response from either company. However, May was not much clearer about the city’s future actions regarding the issue.
“We have begun the process in respect to enforcement, things will be happening over the next several weeks,” May said, adding he could not be more specific about what that would be.
Scully said Lyft has their own legal team and they are working directly with the city. He said the deadline was not official, it came and went without any event happening.
Scully said Lyft drivers have continued to operate throughout the summer, although it has been much slower without the usual student community in Madison.
He added there has been contention between the rideshare companies and taxi companies in the past and some Lyft drivers have chosen to drive without the large pink mustache in front of their car due to harassment. However, he said this issue has since died down and is not as aggressive as it once was.
There has not been any further driver citations since those given in April, Scully said.
“Lyft of course is operating completely legally because there are no laws that make us illegal; however the city wants to put us in as a taxi service,” Scully said. “If we were illegal there would continue to be enforcement.”
Scully said drivers instead face the public as a form of enforcement. If a driver makes a passenger uncomfortable or is not following driver guidelines, they will be reviewed that way on the app and will no longer have the ability to operate.
There continues to be concerns from the city regarding safety and equity issues. Mayor Paul Soglin has frequently spoken out about his hesitations with the rideshare apps and has shown a more moderate attitude toward the controversy.
“The city needs to encourage the formation of new innovative businesses and ensure equity in the delivery of services,” Soglin said. “For example we expect old cab companies and new app-based companies to provide service all over the city with no discrimination.”