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Alder Scott J. Resnick

Alder Scott J. Resnick

Home Address:
661 Mendota Ct # 1404
Madison , WI 53703

Phone: 608-807-7962
Common Council Office:
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Room 417
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
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Regulating the New Economy

May 6, 2014 7:51 AM

Dichotomy. That is the first word that I think of when I try to describe the recent taxi cab debate. This topic has been as heated as any, with passion running high on both sides. While it would be easy to avoid the conflict, as a policymaker, this is what I signed up for. It is my job to tackle complex issues, listen to both sides, and work to find consensus.

Today, I am introducing legislation that provides a pathway forward for Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) to legally operate in Madison. Through regulation, I believe these companies can provide safe and equitable service in Madison while protecting fair competition within the marketplace.

But when new ideas come into the city, they deserve the opportunity to be heard. Madison proudly promotes its commitment to civic engagement and public deliberation. And with this issue, it has been no different. For the past several weeks, advocates and opponents of these companies have engaged in a robust debate about the role of government in our city's transportation policy and the new economy.

During this debate, I have spent a significant amount of time hearing many different arguments. I have met representatives of all four existing taxi cab companies. I have met with representatives of Uber and Lyft. I am met with concerned citizens and those who simply want their voice heard. It is a complicated issue and I want to be perfectly clear: at this time, I am not yet prepared to make a specific statement regarding any particular TNC, be it Uber, Lyft, or similar service. I wish to address TNCs on the whole.

Ultimately, I do believe there is a model for TNCs to operate in Madison that will require them to meet the same safety requirements as existing taxi companies, while also providing equitable service options. It is easy to just say "no" and sweep these new technologies away under the current regulatory regime, but I think we can do better. Through hours of conversations, I am now able to offer solutions to 9 of the 11 major points of conflict, and I hope the last two can be resolved through our committee process. 

To this end, three weeks ago I met with a city attorney to begin drafting an ordinance regulating TNCs. I would like to re-empathize the word regulate. No serious stakeholder advocates for a "Wild West" running amok in the streets of Madison. Uber, Lyft and future services drivers will not go unlicensed, and the proposed ordinance levels the playing field between both new and existing services. Drivers will be licensed by the City and required to follow the same background check procedures as existing taxi drivers. Drivers must maintain and provide an appropriate level of insurance. Vehicles must be deemed safe to operate and have clean emission. Companies must follow protocols regarding service to disabled passengers. Consumer protections will be upheld. Our citizens expect the same level of safety stepping to a TNC vehicle or traditional cab, and I believe these changes will provide just that.

However, TNCs differ from existing cab services, and that is reflected in my ordinance changes. Street hails are forbidden. Pick-ups at taxi stands are forbidden. TNCs are treated like any other vehicle on the road, so State Street is off limits. I am also introducing changes to uniform markings and posting rates. We will also require these companies to report data to ensure our discrimination laws are being upheld.

There are also areas where a solution has yet to present itself. Madison has a 24-hour rule unique for our community that requires companies to always have a vehicle on the road. TNCs have a difficult time complying. A required level of insurance for each vehicle has yet to be solved. However, these unknowns should not preclude a debate nor end a search for creative solutions. And that is why I call upon the community to resist a blanket approach of saying "no" to TNCs.

Right now, the issue just as much about process as it is about transportation policy. Will Madison shy away from the challenging issues of the new economy? Or will we use our incredibly talented public servants and engaged citizens to look for new approaches to solve our problems? I support the latter: we can find solutions. But that is where my support ends. I am not, and will never be, an automatic vote of support for TNCs. I support a positive, forward thinking process during this debate. And I support nuanced regulations that take into consideration shifts in technology and industry.

With that in mind, it is important to note that even if my ideas are put into law, the onus will ultimately fall onto the TNCs themselves. They will need to fully comply or face the consequences. As a member of the Common Council, I am only concerned with what is in Madison's best interest, not Uber and Lyft's. Yet ultimately, I do believe it is in Madison's best interest to create a pathway for legal, responsible, and equitable operation of TNCs.

This will be a long process, and any legislation will have to pass the Transit and Parking Commission and the Common Council. Language will be amended, and in the mean time I expect our existing laws to be enforced. Although the process will be long, our deliberations will uncover the best possible ordinance for our City. I want to work with all stakeholders to build consensus. This ordinance already contains ideas represented by committee testimony, Emails and Tweets on this subject, and I encourage everyone to keep sharing your thoughts, no matter where you stand. I know this debate has been contentious, in other communities it has gotten downright nasty, but I know Madison can do better. I call on all stakeholders, regardless of your position, to seek out the best of each other, even in times of disagreement.

In conclusion, as I wrote back in 2012: "I'm a strong believer in government. Government is where people come together and we can be stronger as a community. We regulate because it stems from our community norms of what should be allowed, and what should be discouraged. And for decades, Madison has been a leader in using its regulatory scheme to create a vibrant, but fair economy." I think it has particular meaning for the current debate over TNCs. We need regulations to keep our economy vibrant while ensuring fairness. It is our responsibility to find that balance and I believe my ordinance is a step in that direction.


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