Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft may see the same regulations as taxicab services in Madison after city officials proposed legislation to address the ongoing transportation debate.
“They are all providing a transport for hire service,” Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said. “The regulations should be uniform to all to provide an equitable system.”
Both Soglin and Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, have recently released proposals on how these services should be regulated. While the proposals differ in ways including the 24-hour service requirement and insurance policies, both agree the regulations should apply uniformly to both taxi companies and Transportation Network Companies, like Lyft and Uber.
Lyft driver who chose to only go by his first name, Ken said he disagrees with the 24-hour service requirement that Soglin proposed, adding that he feels that it is unnecessary to require that background checks be done by the city.
“If people are driving at night they need to get gas, but not every gas station is required to be open 24 hours,” Ken said. “It’s the same thing.”
Soglin’s proposal also banned surge pricing for TNCs, which is the raise in price during times of higher demand. However, Ken said there is full disclosure when Uber or Lyft hike prices, putting the responsibility of regulation into the wallets of customers.
While Resnick’s proposal claimed to level the playing field between cab companies and TNCs, Ken said cab services actually have an upper hand in that they are able to use taxi stands and drive down State Street.
“That is giving taxi services an advantage, especially at bar time,” Ken said.
Representatives of Uber and Lyft have argued in the past that the service they provide through the mobile app makes them distinct from taxi services and thus separates them from the current city ordinances.
Lyft spokesperson Chelsea Wilson said in an email she agrees that it is time for regulations to be updated. She said old ordinances can be revisited to allow new industries with new technology to thrive in the city.
“Current regulations surrounding taxis and limos were created long before anything like Lyft’s peer-to-peer model was imagined,” Wilson said.
While newer rideshare companies may find current regulations outdated, established taxicab companies express an unnecessary accommodation in the city’s regulations for these new services.
Union Cab Business Manager Paul Bittorf said changing city regulations to compromise with the TNCs is a decision Madison officials would regret.
“This is not a good move by the city,” Bittorf said. “There was nothing wrong with our taxi ordinances, they had someone with a lot of money come into town, break their laws and tell them to change their laws.”
Greencab General Manager Phillip Anderson said, as a newer Madison taxi service, Greencab respects the way Lyft and Uber are innovative in providing the city with more transportation options. He said he does, however, disagree with the way in which the companies are bypassing Madison laws to achieve that.
Anderson said the service the companies provide is a taxi service and should be regulated as such, regardless of the technology it uses. He said at this point it is up to the city to decide what its interests are as far as public safety and equity in transportation services.
“I respect that they’re thinking outside the box. We are in favor of the entrepreneurship and more access to transportation,” Anderson said. “What a genius plan it is, except that it’s illegal.”