Milwaukee ready to green light changes on taxi permits, but not on Lyft's terms

CREATED Jun 13, 2014

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MILWAUKEE -- Alderman Robert Bauman said it swiftly and bluntly: "What we're not going to do is just open the floodgates."

Still, proposed changes to the way taxi cabs do business in Milwaukee are on the verge of the first significant change since the 1930s.
 
The ordinance would drop the city's 85-year-old system that caps the number of taxi permits given out by the city (right now there are only 420 to serve the city's population of more than 600,000 people). 
 
Once again taxi drivers packed council chambers for the meeting of the Transportation Review Board, and cheered loudly anytime a board member talked about lifting the caps.
 
Other supporters today included those who worked for online services like Lyft and Uber; these carriers work off smartphones and conduct their own background checks on drivers and car inspections.
 
At the meeting, Lyft promised that its system was sufficient, and worried that city bureaucracy would get in the way of this growing business.
 
"If you want to compete with the big leagues like Chicago, you have to learn to adapt," Lyft driver Tom Deladurantey told TODAY'S TMJ4. "Lyft is part of that."
 
Board members swiftly rejected that argument, and maintained that any lift on caps requires the same checks and balances to ensure public safety: Milwaukee Police checks on driving records, proof of insurance, and city-licensed inspectors.
 
The ordinance now moves to Public Works for a special meeting among its board next week; Bauman expects the proposal to reach the common council by the end of the month.