Board pushes high annual fees for Uber and Lyft
MILWAUKEE—The Milwaukee County Board on Thursday pushed forward with new airport pickup fees for taxicabs and rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft. Beginning September 1, 2016, each rideshare driver will be required to pay a $125.00 annual permitting fee in addition to the $3.00 per trip fee already charged at General Mitchell International Airport (GMIA). Taxicabs will also see a per trip fee increase from $1.00 to $3.00.
Some taxicab drivers had asked government officials to charge rideshare drivers higher fees in order to lessen the continued threat increased marketplace competition. The purpose of the new fees was published as “eliminating disparities in ground transportation fees.”
The County’s attorneys claimed that state law mandates Milwaukee County to treat rideshare companies the “same way” it treats taxicab companies, but Supervisor Deanna Alexander believes that the intent of that state law was to ensure the county could not outlaw rideshare driving. The unintended consequence may now be increased fees packaged as “leveling the playing field.”
“Government officials are wrong to hurt businesses just because it is the only way they can devise to create equality. Making things more difficult for one party does not make a system equal for everyone. I’d rather see all boats lifted than join in creating equal leaks,” said Alexander.
Fiscal reports estimated that the airport would collect an additional $492,000 between September 2016 and December 2017, based on an assumption that all for-hire transporters would continue with the same pick-up frequency after the fee increases, not altering their business practices at all.
Alexander was the only Supervisor to attempt to delay the vote until September, citing the “clear discrepancy” with assuming that a fee increase would not at all affect drivers’ decisions about doing business at the airport. All other Supervisors voted to deny the delay.
“Rideshare groups like Uber and Lyft have a unique business model that allows drivers to work as many or as few hours as they wish, to drive where they choose, and so many Milwaukee County families have benefited from this versatile business model. It is reasonable for drivers to pay a per-ride fee to GMIA for the privilege of doing business at the airport, but a complicated permit process and large annual fee will put an undue burden on the industry as a whole. This is basic economics,” she concluded. Three other Supervisors joined Alexander in opposing the fee increases.
The fee increases were approved on a vote of 11-4.
Aye: Haas, Johnson, Lipscomb, Mayo, Sartori, Schmitt, Sebring, Taylor (2nd District), Taylor (9th District), Weishan, and West.
No: Alexander, Cullen, Staskunas, Wasserman.
Excused Absent: Dimitrijevic, Moore Omokunde, Nicholson.