Madison Mayor Blasts Uber as “Free Enterprise Nonsense”

MacIver News Service | February 12, 2015

[Madison, Wisc…] The future of Uber and Lyft in Madison remains in question as the city’s Transit and Parking Commission delayed any defining action on whether and how to let the ride-sharing companies operate in the city.

Mayor Paul Soglin testified in opposition to allowing the companies to operate without the normal regulations that are placed on existing cab companies. Soglin said Uber and Lyft’s business model is “built on exploitation” and subjects drivers to a “16th century version of serfdom.”

“I have no room for Ayn Rand free enterprise nonsense in this discussion,” explained Soglin while comparing the taxi industry to other regulated services such as telephone and electric utilities.

Back in August, the Mayor introduced a proposal to allow Uber and Lyft, referred to as transportation network companies (TNCs), to operate so long as they followed certain requirements. The companies would have to provide the same levels of insurance and licensing fees as other cab companies, be uniformly marked, and undergo regular inspections. TNC’s would also be prohibited from “surge pricing,” or charging riders more during peak hours, and would not be allowed to reject potential customers.

Mayoral challenger and current alderman Scott Resnick also offered a plan in 2014. His proposal was more lenient, dropping requirements for TNCs to run 24/7 and to offer the same insurance as normal cab companies.

The most recent amendment to Resnick’s plan allows TNCs to conduct surge pricing for 45 days a year, but requires inspections, licensing fees and 24/7 operation.

TNCs remain an illegal service in Madison.

Wednesday’s meeting drew questions on what types of insurance TNCs offered and how they differ from traditional cab insurers. Committee members voted to recess the item of TNC regulation until their March meeting.

The meeting comes days after the City filed charges against Uber seeking fines for illegally providing rides to people since last Spring. The City is seeking the maximum fine of $42,000 for providing illegal taxi services.