EDITORIAL: Uber and Lyft services set new industry safety norms

Since their arrival in Milwaukee, Uber and Lyft have given cab companies a run for their money. Photo by Mattie Pieschel / madeline.pieschel@marquette.edu
Since their arrival in Milwaukee, Uber and Lyft have given cab companies a run for their money. Photo by Mattie Pieschel / madeline.pieschel@marquette.edu

New transportation services like Uber and Lyft are upsetting the status quo in major cities across the United States. In Milwaukee, cabs need a city issued permit from a capped number and are subject to fee regulations, but other providers operate without license and are not held to the same standard.

However, the signing of a recent city ordinance into law may lift the current cap on available cab permits, opening up the opportunity to purchase permits by Uber and Lyft. This would legitimize the operation of Uber and Lyft serving Milwaukee while putting cab companies at a disadvantage as the monopoly they held since the permit cap was set in 1991 would break up. 

Five major cab companies in Milwaukee will contest the ordinance in an attempt to maintain their legitimacy and thwart rapid success of companies like Uber. Though they have every right to contest this law taking effect, the rise of Uber represents a changed market, with safer options in ride services for people in Milwaukee.

Uber and Lyft sharply altered the economic model for taxi cabs with new expectations and easier accessibility. Both operate on a mobile application, which syncs with online payment methods and offers numerous choices, from vehicle size to splitting the cost of a trip among users. Cab users have no say over what standard of services they receive, which can lead to over-packed cars and chaos, but Uber and Lyft fulfill their standard of comfort and safety while opening up the lines of communication between drivers, central staff and customers. You can call cab companies to complain about something, but the companies do not communicate as effectively with drivers as Uber and Lyft.

In an urban setting, where riding the bus or waiting some indeterminate time for a ride can put one at risk, the perks of knowing when the driver will arrive and tracking your whereabouts during the ride cannot be understated. For Marquette students traveling to different parts of Milwaukee, beyond the range of LIMOS or off a bus route, these services can put both students and parents at ease by minimizing the time spent in or around  crime-ridden areas. Promoting safety is a big plus for mobile ride services which should be a standard with today’s technology.

Milwaukee cab companies, in their attempts to remain relevant and profitable, should consider what changes they may make if the lawsuit is defeated. There are many areas to explore new means of convenience and though it appears the multi-city operations cornered the market, more innovations can be made specific to Milwaukee that are not part of the Uber or Lyft business model. Such innovations could be location trackers riders could follow along with and city insights that can help direct and protect passengers in Milwaukee.

While it is of great importance for Milwaukee to consider the long-term economic ramifications of new mobile-ride services, Uber and Lyft offer positive piece of mind to customers and should continue to set new standards for what we can expect from ride services. With greater accountability and disclosure, the market is changing. Cab companies and the city of Milwaukee can work on new ways to serve its clientele without disadvantaging the consumer. There is the possibility of a new standard, where people feel comfortable and safe in the city.