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Tuesday, November 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 22.0° F  Overcast
The Daily
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Madison police are prepared to ticket unlicensed Lyft and Uber drivers
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Drivers for Lyft defended the company's operations.
Credit:Meghan Chua

Madison police say they are ready to issue tickets to drivers who work for such unlicensed rideshare app services as Lyft and Uber.

"I urge that all drivers stop activities to avoid the citations which run close to $700 apiece for the violation," Madison Police Department Captain Carl Gloede said at the end of a public hearing Wednesday night before the city's Transit and Parking Commission.

Gloede said the tickets would be issued for operating as a taxi company without a license.

Lyft began operating in late February in Madison and Uber launched last week.

The hearing before the Transit and Parking Commission drew dozens of people and more than 20 speakers. Drivers for rideshare app company Lyft defended the company's operations and vouched for its friendliness. Cab drivers, many from Union Cab, urged the city to require app ride services to comply with the same regulations required of cab companies. These drivers cited safety and accountability concerns without such licensing, as well as the value of supporting local businesses .

Jason Glomp, a cab driver and board member with Union Cab, told the panel that he can't see how the companies are not a taxi service.

"It kind of reminds me of something my grandfather used to say. 'If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it's a duck,'" he said.

Glomp said cab companies are concerned by the competitive advantage rideshare app services would gain from not following city taxi regulations.

"Those of us who are operating in this local cab market have had issues with regulation in the past, but we don't have the audacity to simply operate in violation of that ordinance," Glomp said.

Lyft driver Laura Alvarez wore the company's signature fuzzy pink mustache on her shirt when she spoke.

"I believe that there is room for this company, and also Uber, in Madison," Alvarez said. "We're a different option. We’re a different flavored duck, if you will."

Nick Anderson, general manager for Uber in Wisconsin, said thousands of people in Madison had requested to download Uber's mobile app before the company came to town, and the company would provide a service people are interested in using.

"We've got a team who would love to work with the city and find a way where we can coexist and work within the city," he said.

Ald. Scott Resnick, who sat with commission members but is not one himself, wrote Monday about his interest to "create an ordinance system where both traditional and new companies can compete on the same playing field." When he asked if Anderson knew operating in Madison violated ordinances, Anderson said Uber had email contact with the city of Madison prior to launch, and that he and an Uber policy team have read the Madison ordinances. Natalie Verette, a consultant with Lyft, was not able to answer many of the questions posed by commission members about Lyft's operations, but said that she would relay them back to company officials.

After the meeting, Lyft driver Justin Kibbel said he was uncertain what the company would do, but heard that it would be "backing their drivers."

"We had gotten information -- and like I said this may be different now -- that they were going to be covering any citations that would occur. But it's just something that obviously I'm going to follow up again, just to get that in writing," he said.

Kibbel said by not adapting to support rideshare app services, Madison is lacking a transportation option that people in many cities around the world use on a daily basis.

"It's something that, in five years from now, they'll be kicking themselves basically for taking so long to catch up to it."

After the public spoke, member Ken Golden suggested the commission form a subcommittee to deal with the issue. Members also expressed interest in hearing directly from company representatives in future discussions.

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