Two nights ago WATO (Wisconsin Association of Taxi Owners) held a vote among their members concerning support for the legislation SB759 that was considered by the Wisconsin state senate today at the capital in a public hearing.
SB759 is the senate counterpart bill of AB918, the state assembly bill that was passed for consideration by the Senate and governor for final passage into law.
BOTH bills are a deregulation of taxi industry standards that would lower taxi operations to the same uninsured, unregulated and unaccountable standards as Rideshare/TNC companies are currently allowed in Wisconsin.
Obviously any professional Taxi or Limo provider would not support such a law but one Taxi company which is Wisconsin’s largest, TaxiMKE of Milwauke, was in support of the bill.
TaxiMKE is also a WATO member company.
This was NOT what Gary Goyke (WATO’s primary legislative and public representative) wanted but as it is his role to represent for WATO (Wisconsin Association of Taxi Owners), he is now forced to take this position against his own better judgement and what SHOULD have been the principals of WATO to protect accountability and ethics in the taxi industry.
I have known Gary and worked with Gary for just over a year now.
WATO had me as their key note speaker at their annual meeting last year during the Wisconsin Public Transportation Association’s Annual convention.
Until yesterday, I had no reason to doubt or question WATO’s intentions to preserve safety and accountability in the Taxi industry.
WATO is the oldest organization for Taxi owners still operating in the United States.
At the WATO meeting here in Madison two nights ago, TaxiMKE/American United Transportation (of Milwaukee) essentially bullied WATO and other members into supporting the taxi deregulation bill.
This resulted in an open statement to legislators submitted by WATO in support of the bill.
Since WATO’s decision to take this route, several taxi companies have left WATO and have requested representation from Ride Safe.
As tempting as this is, Ride Safe can not represent FOR any specific business or industry in transportation.
Ride Safe represents for safe and accountable transportation FOR the well being of those using the services and those working for the services.
Ride Safe must always account for the public’s best interests, labor ethics and safety first and ALWAYS.
Ride Safe is also a non-profit organization and must remain so in order to provide an unbiased service in the best interests of safety and ethics.
HOWEVER, Ride Safe CAN organize with taxi companies, states and cities to defend and preserve safe and accountable transportation.
Especially when laws exist that actually promote fraud and unsafe transportation.
WATO is no longer a taxi organization, TaxiMKE and the companies gong along with them to establish this deregulation are no longer a taxi companies.
If the proposed legislation passes or not, they will still not be.
They didn’t even have to go this far. WATO could have simply remained neutral. Respecting at least SOME level of ethics on the issue, given this law destroys ANYTHING ethical in the taxi industry.
But they chose to take a vote on it and be bullied into ignoring ethics and encouraging fraud and malice in the taxi industry.
I have already reached out to taxi companies through out the state who are all on board with forming a new inter-city co-op if this law is passed.
Ride Safe can file for ALL taxi companies through out the state on ONE registration with DSPS if this law passes. That will mean that instead of $248,000.00 in registration fees to DSPS, they will get only $5000.00. The cost to each company to register in this way would be less than $40.00 for up to 50 or more.
The new law would actually allow this AND allow each company in the umbrella registration to retain their ownership and administration.
Thus bankrupting Scott Walker’s baby doll “regulation company” DSPS that does not actually regulate any businesses it is supposed to or protect customers.
THEN taxi companies can also lower insurance rates by sharing co-op insurance policies (also allowed under the law) and form a state network of dispatch offices to coordinate inter city travel and operations.
Without city borders (also eliminated by the proposed law) taxis will have to respect each other and coordinate if they are to survive the pact that TaxiMKE is likely to form with Uber or in their own twisted version of Rideshare through out the state.
This will mean that taxis will need to unify portions of their fleets and coordinate between each other fairly, with respect to each other and with respect to the public.
Instead of crushing local cab companies in smaller cities like taxiMKE plans to, taxis from other areas will coordinate with local and rural taxi companies to trade off street hail and call service so ALL can run calls, make fair wages and also ensure that taxi lanes are full of only SAFE, VETTED and INSURED vehicles, instead of TaxiMKE or rideshare vehicles.
The coordinated combination of availability to the public curb side at busy hours, healthy call service to ALL without bias and paratransit will be the defining factor of the victors in this coming chaos.
WATO just threatened that ever happening and companies like TaxiMKE think that if they drop insurance, vetting and play dirty in the streets, they will put smaller companies out of business, get a buy in with Uber to take over the state and buy out other taxi companies.
As Ride Safe has told the industry for over four years now, TOGETHER YOU can stop this and build a better, safer and more profitable market FOR ALL.
-Justin La Plante
Ride Safe International