County preps rules for ride-sharing at airport

Permitting process would extend pilot program efforts

Lyft car
Lyft cars are often marked with a pink mustache to alert passengers to the vehicle.

Last updated on May 24th, 2022 at 01:49 am

Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft would be subject to a permitting process similar to that required for taxis to offer services at General Mitchel International Airport under a proposal under consideration by the Milwaukee County board. Those who are looking for a more comfortable ride to or from the airport, you may book a taxi service instead.

Lyft car
Lyft cars are often marked with a pink mustache to alert passengers to the vehicle.

The proposal is the extension of a pilot program that began in March. The board’s Transportation, Public Works and Transit Committee unanimously recommended approval of the permitting process Wednesday and also signed off on changes to the fee structure for transportation companies using the airport.

A spokeswoman for Uber, however, said the company had not reached a final agreement with the airport beyond the pilot program. A Lyft spokeswoman said the company was reviewing the changes.

Melissa Baldauff, a spokeswoman for county executive Chris Abele, said the county wants travelers to have as many transportation options as possible at the airport.

“However, we also want to make sure those options are fair to all operators, which is why we are bringing fees for ride-sharing operators like Uber and Lyft in line with the fees assessed for cabs,” Baldauff said. “We have been in communication with several operators already, and if any other operators or potential operators have questions about how the County is making the rules more equitable we are happy to have a conversation.”

The new permitting program requires ride-sharing companies to pay $125 per vehicle making pickups at the airport and a $3 fee for each trip. The per vehicle charge is a change from the pilot program, which charged a flat $125 fee to each company.

Airport director Ismael Bonilla said taxicabs are charged a per vehicle fee and the change was made to make the fee structure more equitable. The ordinance updating fee structures also increases the per trip fee for taxis from $1 to $3.

The ordinance also calls for the ride-sharing companies to install a “geo fence” in pickup areas to electronically record when vehicles are entering to determine how much the companies owe.

The new permitting and fee structure could generate $369,000 per year for the airport, including $188,000 from ride-sharing companies. The airport generated $24,582 from Uber and Lyft during the first seven weeks of the pilot program.

Uber made 7,237 pickups during that period and Lyft made 957. Taxi pickups were down 13 percent during that period.

Several taxi drivers attended Wednesday’s meeting and urged committee members to hold the ride-sharing companies to the same standards to which they are held. Bonilla said the airport is limited in what restrictions it can impose by state law, but would require the companies to allow random audits to make sure the state regulations are being followed.

He also said airport officials worked with leadership from the taxi and ride-sharing companies to make the new regulations equitable.

“What is fair is fair and that’s what we’ve been discussing with them,” Bonilla said.

Some drivers lamented the ride-sharing companies were being given pickup locations closer to the airport, while the taxis stage farther away. Bonilla acknowledged there is limited space to work with and said the airport is looking at investments in signage and technology that will help with dispatching taxis

County supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic said the county’s hands are tied as far as regulations and criticized Republican state lawmakers for revising ride-sharing regulations.

“They’ve come in and they’ve micromanaged the heck out of this and we’re left to pick up the pieces,” she said. “It looks like we’re trying to do the best that we can with what we can control.”

Bus fee changes delayed

Supervisors did hold one piece of the revised fee structure out of their recommendation. The proposal called for per trip fees for buses to increase from $1 to $10, but representatives from the bus companies, including Badger Coaches Inc., Wisconsin Coach Lines and Lamers, said they weren’t consulted on the change.

Tom Dieckelman, Wisconsin Coach president, said his company currently pays the airport $16,500 per year and increasing the figure by nearly $150,000 would result in changes to service.

“We can’t sustain that,” he said.

Bonilla said he thought airport staff had been in contact with the companies and apologized for any miscommunication.

Baldauff said the county is always looking for way to increase revenue to support improvements.

“The suggested increase for scheduled bus fees was just one proposal we have discussed with operators. We will further study the impact of this and other proposals and seek input from stakeholders before making any final decisions,” she said.


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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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