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May 07--Taking on one of the city's thornier situations, Ald. Scott Resnick is proposing regulations for the popular but controversial ride-sharing companies in Madison.
The proposal, introduced to the City Council on Tuesday, would give so-called Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Lyft and Uber a pathway to operate legally in the city.
Currently, companies such as California-based Lyft and Uber that use technology to match people seeking rides with drivers using their personal cars are illegal and violate the city's taxi ordinances, which have strict rules for cab services.
Mayor Paul Soglin and the city's existing cab companies have said TNCs amount to unlicensed cabs and have an unfair advantage over companies that must follow rules for licensing, background checks, insurance, rates and 24-hour, citywide service.
Despite a recent sting that resulted in citations for drivers, Lyft and Uber still operate in the city.
Resnick argued the city can't shy from opportunities in the new economy and said his proposal will let TNCs provide safe, equitable service while protecting fair competition. The proposal doesn't address insurance levels and 24-hour citywide service.
The proposal received a cautious response.
Nick Anderson, Uber's general manager for operation in Madison and Milwaukee, said, "We are supportive of regulations that allow for increased economic opportunities for our driver partners and do not hinder innovation or consumer choice."
The proposed ordinance wouldn't work for Lyft's peer-to-peer business model in its current form but is a good starting point, said Lyft spokeswoman Paige Thelen.
Mike Dentice, operations manager at Badger Cab, said he supports efforts to create a level playing field but opposes creating a two-tier system with different rules for traditional cab companies and TNCs, especially on round-the-clock citywide coverage.
Soglin said the plan "goes further than I thought it would as far as reining in Uber and Lyft, but there are still some significant remaining issues."
He said his main concerns involve whether TNCs could decline passengers for any reason, whether their vehicles are clearly marked, whether they could raise rates during peak demand, insurance and the 24-7 rule.
"This is a starting point, a start of the conversation," Resnick said, stressing that the proposal doesn't mean he's offering carte blanche support for Lyft or Uber. "It's not going to be passed overnight."
Requirements under Resnick's proposal would include licenses for companies and vehicles, driver background checks and vehicle safety checks.
TNCs would have to have a business office in the city with toll-free phone, complaint hotline and mailing address, and vehicles would have to be marked with approved decals.
TNCs would be banned from taking street hails, operating on State Street or making pick-ups at taxi stands, and only electronic payments could be accepted.
It also would require:
--Filing a GPS-calculated rate schedule with the City Clerk's Office, with surge pricing for TNCs and regular cab companies limited to 10 days per year with specific approvals.
--Keeping records on drivers, vehicle service and repair, vehicle insurance and registration, and passenger complaints for one year.
--Securing storage space for items left in vehicles.
The proposal, modeled after legislation recently passed in Seattle, Washington, will be reviewed by the Transit and Parking Commission before going to the full council.
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