Mayor Paul Soglin has drafted a proposal that would regulate Lyft and Uber as taxicab companies under city ordinance. He says his aim is to protect the public and full-time taxicab jobs but anticipates opposition from the two app-based ride companies, which have entered the Madison market this year.
"My sense is that they will not like it," he said at a news conference Friday where he unveiled his proposal.
He is right.
Chelsea Wilson, a spokesperson for Lyft, says the mayor's ordinance does not accommodate her company's business model.
"Despite our continued attempts to work with Mayor Soglin, the ordinance introduced today was crafted without any input from the ridesharing community and will not work with our peer-to-peer model," Wilson wrote in an email. "The regulations included in the ordinance do not increase public safety or consumer choice. Instead they force innovative new industries into a one-size-fits-all regulatory structure that benefits entrenched interests. We urge the mayor to listen to the vibrant Lyft community in Madison who have made it clear they want safer, more affordable and more reliable transportation options."
Uber could not be reached for comment.
Soglin says that it is important to protect good jobs, noting that wages have not returned to pre-recession levels.
"If we are concerned about equity and living wages, it's important that people be able to make a living providing taxicab services."
Lyft and Uber, which are both based in San Francisco, offer customers an app that can be downloaded to a smart phone and used to order a ride. In Madison, both companies tap local drivers, who use their own vehicles.
Lyft drivers affix a fuzzy pink mustache to their fenders to distinguish their cars.
Soglin's proposal requires that "transportation network companies" like Lyft and Uber pay the same licensing fees as cabs and that they maintain the same minimum levels of insurance. Their vehicles would need to be marked, the company would have to maintain a local office, and drivers would be prohibited from declining rides.
Soglin's proposal would also prohibit "surge pricing" in high-demand times.
Ald. Scott Resnick, a mayoral candidate, offered his own proposal in May. Resnick would also require transportation network companies to pay licensing fees and maintain a business office in the city. Their vehicles would also have to undergo inspections and be marked as public passenger vehicles.
But Resnick's proposal does not specify insurance levels or require that these operations offer citywide service 24/7.
Soglin says offering round-the-clock service is critical.
"If we don't require it we are going to see taxicab companies –– TNCs –– only providing service during prime hours –– during those periods of time when there are UW athletic events; Thursday, Friday, Saturday bar time; when there are major conventions. But at 3 in the morning on a Tuesday in mid-August, it will be very difficult to provide taxicab service in Madison."
Resnick, reached Friday on the road, says the city attorney's office is drafting a substitute ordinance for him that will address insurance issues and allow companies to comply with a 24/7 requirement over time.
Resnick says he has worked closely with a Transit Parking Commission subcommittee that was formed to hash out the details of how to regulate transportation network companies. He says the panel has met with taxicab companies and citizens and looked at how other cities are addressing these new companies.
"We're looking at best practices," says Resnick. "It's an evolution."
Resnick says he and Soglin agree on "quite a lot" when it comes to cab regulation.
"Both the mayor and I are dedicated to creating uniform and safe practices for transportation network companies," he says. "There are major areas that the mayor's proposal does not address, and those are the same issues that other cities, the subcommittee and myself are still struggling with. I'm glad the mayor is at the table and hopefully can be productive in these conversations."
Technically, Soglin's proposal will be treated as an alternate to Resnick's, which is currently under review by the TPC subcommittee.
Chris Schmidt, president of the Common Council, says that the subcommittee will consider both proposals.
"The subcommittee can go with one, pick what they like from each or come up with their own entirely," says Schmidt.
Two other city panels –– the Public Safety Review Committee and the Economic Development Committee –– will also review the proposals. The subcommittee will ultimately made a recommendation to the Transit Parking Commission, which will make its own recommendation to the Common Council.
Though Soglin anticipated final action by the Common Council this fall, Schmidt says it might not be that quick. Schmidt expects that neither Soglin nor Resnick's proposal will survive intact.
"I'm pretty much expecting it will not be one or the other [but] what the best hybrid is that covers the various things the city wants to maintain as well as deal with the new reality we have in front of us."