Ordinance tabled: Common Council puts the brakes on proposal to lift the cap on taxicab permits

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Milwaukee Common Council meeting on Tuesday, June 24th was expected to produce a major announcement about the operation of taxis in the city of Milwaukee. Instead, the Council decided to put the brakes on the issue.

The Common Council on Tuesday took up a proposed ordinance to lift the cap on taxicab permits and establish provisions for vehicle inspections and driver licensing for “network companies” such as Uber and Lyft.

"It's basically a deregulation of the taxicab industry. We're eliminating the historic cap that has been on the number of taxicabs that could operate in the city and we're also modifying our laws to basically embrace the Uber and Lyft concept of taxi service," Alderman Robert Bauman said.

Uber and Lyft are mobile ride-sharing services that hook passengers up with drivers through smartphone apps.

Alderman Bauman backed the proposed ordinance.

"Same rules for everybody -- different business models, different methods of dispatching, but fundamentally everybody has to get a city license, has to get a city permit, the city will do background checks, the city will do vehicle inspections and once the minimum requirements are met -- people can compete in whatever way they desire," Alderman Bauman said.

Alderman Bauman was predicting what he thought Council members would do during the meeting Tuesday -- but instead, the group voted to hold the proposed ordinance and take another look at the issue at a later meeting.

It wasn't what some taxicab drivers were hoping for.

"It's been wage slavery here for the past 20 years for these drivers. It's time to break those chains and let a free market come to the city of Milwaukee and let everyone be their own boss," Timothy Wong with the Southeastern Wisconsin Taxi Drivers' Association said.

The Southeastern Wisconsin Taxi Drivers' Association says it plans to keep pushing for the ordinance until it's taken up again.

"We are disappointed, but at the same time we are also hopeful because we got 11 votes, so it's just a matter of time -- you know, three weeks is not a big deal," Harpreet Singh, the vice president of the Southeastern Wisconsin Taxi Drivers' Association said.

The Milwaukee Common Council will take another look at the issue at its meeting on July 22nd.