Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

More Taxis for Milwaukee?

Bauman's proposal would drastically increase the number of cabs, and a recent court decision makes change more likely.

By - Apr 17th, 2013 10:43 am
Yellow Cab

Yellow Cab

Bob Bauman wants more cabs in Milwaukee.

The alderman’s proposal to raise the cap on the number of taxi cabs in the City of Milwaukee will be before the Public Safety Committee on Thursday morning. The number of cabs in Milwaukee has been artificially capped at 321 since 1991, but a decision by Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge Jane Carroll ruled that the city’s taxicab ordinance is unconstitutional, and a violation of the equal protection and due process clauses. The effect of yesterday’s ruling on the proposed ordinance is unclear, but is certain to help the cause for more cabs.

Bauman introduced the legislation in January, and has held two hearings on the matter in front of a citizen-committee which he chairs, the Public Transit Review Board. The hearings have been dominated by members of the taxi cab industry. Drivers have largely spoke in favor of repealing the existing cap, while owners and their employees have opposed the legislation, arguing there is a lack of demand. Testimony from actual riders (or would-be riders) has been virtually absent from the prior hearings. The Public Safety Committee hearing will be the first before additional members of the Common Council.

The proposed legislation would allow the market to better react to demand, and address the consolidation that has a handful of people controlling a large number of the available permits. My colleague Dave Reid opined on Milwaukee’s cab challenges in 2011, when legislation was in front of the State Legislature to allow the City to auction new permits. That legislation failed to pass, reportedly dying in the Senate as a result of vote trading involving school choice legislation.

The hearing is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. on Thursday morning. The proposed ordinance would:

This ordinance repeals the limitation on issuance of new public passenger vehicle permits for taxicabs and authorizes the issuance of 50 new permits prior to November 1, 2014. Ten additional new permits may be issued after November 1, 2014, annually for a period of 5 years.

The ordinance authorizes the city clerk to establish a process for accepting and processing completed applications using a lottery or other system as necessary to ensure orderly processing of taxicab permit applications. If a lottery is established, the city clerk may provide for a waiting list. A $100 lottery participation fee is established.

The ordinance prohibits an applicant from having a financial interest in more than 2 new taxicab permits. This limitation does not apply to permits issued prior to November 1, 2013. No person holding more than one taxicab permit issued prior to November 1, 2013, shall eligible to apply for a new permit on or after that date. Each applicant for a taxicab permit is required to acknowledge these limitations in the sworn statement that is filed with the application.

In addition, the legislation has a number of other stipulations including a requirement that drivers must wear uniforms, a restriction on the leasing of new permits, an increase in the number of inspections for vehicles, a mandate that new vehicles have 40 inches of leg room (or comply with requirements of handicapped-elderly vehicles) and an increase in the annual permit cost from $175 to $370 (going from $100 to $295 for renewals). The full ordinance is available online on the City’s Legistar system, file #111222.

If you can’t make the Thursday morning hearing at City Hall, feel free to leave a comment on the form below and we will submit them in their entirety to the committee.

2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: More Taxis for Milwaukee?”

  1. Carl says:

    Interesting, indeed. I’m all for protecting cab operators safety, but it seems to me like the limited amount of cabs is just one more thing that encourages car dependency and drunk driving.

    I’m also curious about the legality and consideration be taken into account of the likely near future advent of non-cab-licensed on-demand town car services via app. Basically anyone with a smartphone can order a town car that arrives within minutes. The Uber app has Milwaukee in the works: Seems like this is coming and should be considered if this legislation is serious.

  2. George Mitchell says:

    There is no truth to the suggestion that the taxi bill died last year because of vote trading on school choice. It died because it was a bad bill.

    Alderman Bauman’s proposal is inadequate.

    There are no caps on restaurants (or almost every other business). There should be none on cab permits. All that is needed is basic certification involving insurance and vehicle maintenance.

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