Open Letter, Mending the fences

After the chaos that has reined since WATO (Wisconsin Association of Taxi Owners) and the state’s largest taxi provider TaxiMKE decided to ignore the majority of taxi providers in Wisconsin to side with legislation specifically designed to destroy the Taxi industry and endanger the public, I have been trying very hard to put some kind of relationship back together with WATO and their primary PR and legislative representative Gary Goyke.

To that end progress was made during a phone cal between myself and Gary today covering the possibilities, countermeasures and common ground that may still exist if the proposed deregulation is to pass, possibly as soon as next Thursday.

Gary Goyke is a well spoken person and a person to be trusted.  While it is unfortunate that he has been forced to take the side of WATO and TaxiMKE as it is his job, there can at least be some measure of coopertation preserved to protect the public.

 

TO BE CLEAR:

  • Ride Safe WILL NOT be finishing the website project or hosting the website project for WATO any longer as a direct result of WATO’s decision.
  • Both WATO and TaxiMKE are currently in support of legislation that will undermine entirely, the basis of safety and accountability in the Taxi industry through out the state of Wisconsin.  This is a direct threat to the safety of customers and the general public as well as a threat to the fair wages and labor ethics for drivers through out the state.
  • The support of this legislation only makes real, the morbid and baseless propaganda that companies like Uber and Lyft have tried to broadcast about the Taxi industry for years while also selling out that same taxi industry TO Uber and Lyft.
  • This legisaltion not only devalues the Taxi industry but it open the door to Rideshare/TNC companies promoting their fraudulent and deadly brand of business into the Taxi market as an incentive to profit from the suffering of customers, drivers and the general public.
  • TaxiMKE is acting in an infantile and uneducated manner.  Much the same as the legislators who concocted these bills.
  • WATO, in it’s role to represent taxi companies and their interests has had their hand forced through a limited and paid member voting structure as apposed to an actual representation of the MAJORITY of taxi operators in Wisconsin or any sort of ethical standard in the transportation industry.

These are facts that no party will be contesting now or in the future.  It would be comical to see any try.

 

Gary Goyke, being WATO’s representative has had to carry out his duty and carries on in the hope that the parties he represents will utilize logic and reason, instead of greed and desperation if this legislation actually passes.

 

Ride Safe issues this basic four point mandate to all taxi companies if legislation AB918 and SB759 are to become law:

 

1- A fingerprint background check on ALL drivers.
2- Maintain insurance that specifically covers customers in case of an accident.  Not the surplus line or customer contracting scam that uber and lyft use.
3- Maintain vehicle marking that specifies vehicles and what company they drive for.
4- Maintain customer complaint, emergency response and law enforcement compliance with LIVE human beings who can answer a phone 24/7
If the proposed legislation passes, Taxi companies would no longer be required to comply with ANY of these kinds of safety and insurance policies.
They will become a choice that they can either comply with or ignore entirely just to save more money at the cost of Customers, Drivers and the general public.
There are so many more items that Ride Safe would prefer taxi companies to honor if this law passes but we are simply asking for the essential items that will PROTECT LIVES and SAFE transportation.
It would be far better that companies also respect regular service and inspections on their vehicles and supplies a standard training to all drivers.
Unfortunately the proposed legislation eliminates ANY sort of requirement to do so for any Taxi company in the state.
It would be better if taxi companies could agree to respect equal and fair transportation for ALL in the community reguardless of race, income, location OR DISABILITY.
Unfortunately the proposed legislation also eliminates ANY sort of requirement to do so for any Taxi company in the state and replaces it with an honor system that the taxi companies may or may not follow and will NEVER be enforced even if the law mandated it.
But Ride Safe is willing to lower the bar to compromise on PROTECTING LIVES and making sure the transportation that is available is SAFE.
Honestly, it makes my skin crawl compromising to this level.
There are poor, rural communities and disabled customers that will suffer severely restricted or entirely absent transportation options if these bills pass because taxi companies will opt to save money instead of providing routes where it would cost them more.
It is my hope that Taxi companies with coordinate together to fill these gaps and not flood out each other’s markets on busy days.
Trusting businesses, whether they are big or small, to honor a system of ethics in order to preserve the public good and prosperity has NEVER worked  in many cases through out our history.
This is not an industry that has EVER been known to do so in it’s history either.
Rideshare/TNC (Uber & Lyft) companies certainly do not honor them in the least.  Rideshare/TNCs are the most deregulated form of transportation in the world today.
There is no honor in that kind of honor system.  There is no economic future.  Only chaos, death, more sexual assaults and more cost to the tax paying public.
If this legislation passes, it will be a chance for the few taxi companies that support this kind of legislation, like TaxiMKE,  to prove me and the other taxi companies wrong and to prove Rideshare/TNCs wrong to the public.
Though it will seem easier and more profitable NOT to prove me wrong and end up selling out the entire industry to Uber and Lyft, I sincerely hope that most in the taxi industry (as most have indicated to me thus far) will follow logic and reason over greed and desperation.
-Justin La Plante
Ride Safe international

 

 

 

 

 

Open Letter, Statement concerning the recent decision of WATO to help Uber destroy Wisconsin’s taxi industry

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

 

Legislative corruption and the end of the Taxi industry in Wisconsin

Content and website operations for 2018 was made possible by a donation from Robert Williams of Madison Wisconsin.

 

It may seem strange that nether Uber or Lyft raised any protest or so much as spoke out in public hearings over recently announced legislation to deregulate the taxi Industry in Wisconsin.

After all, the legislators presenting these bills (AB918 & SB759) Like state Assembly representative Daniel Knodl and state senator Stephen Nass have been very outspoken in claims that these bills would return a “level playing field” and “fair trade” to the state’s taxi industry.

A taxi industry that has, like many through out the US, suffered losses trying to compete with a grotesquely deregulated and statistically more deadly rideshare/TNC (Uber & Lyft) market.

These particular bills are the first of many proposed laws likely to pass in Republican controlled states through out the US in a bid to make taxis more like Rideshare/TNC companies.

In recent years there have been other taxi deregulation proposals and even a few laws passed in states like California and Michigan to deregulate taxis.  However these other laws differ greatly from the current proposals in Wisconsin.  Mainly because that unlike the currently proposed Wisconsin legislation, they comprehensively address customer safety and driver background checks while SB759 and AB918 completely throw them out the window into a lane of on coming traffic.

This is a move many taxi companies in Wisconsin do not agree with as they would no longer have accountable insurance, background checks on drivers or a fair means of competing with larger taxi companies poised to cherry pick their markets through out the state.

Under the proposed laws, Taxi companies through out Wisconsin would be forced to compete with taxi companies like Milwaukee’s TaxiMKE (American United Transportation Group) who actually desire to operate without comprehensive insurance and background checking standards for their drivers in order to save money.

Because the new laws would also eliminate any and all restrictions on where any taxi company can operate STATE WIDE, companies with large fleets like taxiMKE will be rushing into green bay on busy Green Bay Packer game nights to cherry pick street hails from the local taxi companies in that area.

In recent legislative meetings at the Wisconsin state capital, the only protests that were lodged by Uber lobbyists and their supporters with the Koch Ind lobbying front AFP (Americans For Prosperity) were in opposition to public hearings on the proposed laws.  Likely due to an abundance of evidence Ride Safe had to present concerning fraud with Uber and Lyft drivers through out Wisconsin and corruption at the DSPS (department of Safety and Professional Services).

**NOTE, the evidence presented by Ride Safe appears in the legislative documents AFTER a petition submitted by TaxiMKE administrators and their drivers in SUPPORT of the proposed legislation to deregulate taxis.**

DSPS is the state regulator currently administrating all rideshare regulation in Wisconsin AND slated to become the state’s one and ONLY Taxi regulator if the proposed legislation passes.

The reason Uber and lobbying fronts like the AFP support the establishment of state wide/no border operations, lowered vetting standards and eliminated insurance standards for the taxi industry is because it appeals to the rideshare model of doing business.

It also opens the door to a desperate attempt by Rideshare companies to take over other transportation markets as the rideshare market has been failing consistently in recent years.

 

Uber’s financial disasters

Uber’s CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi recently commented that the company was seeking to begin taking over bus operations in some cities.

Uber’s aspirations for the development of driverless technology, as with other developers in driverless tech have recently hit several brick walls in development that indicate the technology is neither viable or will be viable for commercial or private transportation for several years to come, likely decades.

While Uber once touted a bid for Public trading, the company has recently set the projection for going IPO (publicly traded) for much later in a more vague and uncommitted stance.

This trend with Uber has been leading a world wide failure of sutainability with the so-called “GIG” or “On Demand” economy and job market.

Other “On damend” or “GIG” ventures such as Amazon Flex, Postmates, Door Dash, GrubHub, Task Rabbit, UberEats, and AirBNB have all reported major losses and financial disasters as a result of uninsured operations, assaults on customers by poorly screened service providers and an over all lack of integrity or accountability in their business models.

 

Rideshare companies are also being plagued by another costly menace, THEIR OWN DRIVERS 

In recent months Ride Safe has collected several advertisements from the social net that indicate a new trend which we have dubbed “Kyotes” after the term for border smugglers.  Adding a ‘K’ in place of a ‘C’ to mimic the naming practices of “GIG” companies like Lyft.

Kyotes are Rideshare drivers who take Illegal cash hails, arrange rides and payment outside the apps and in some cases operate their own fleets of Uber and Lyft vehicles on fraudulent sublet deals with drivers who are in most cases not even registered on the app themselves but instead use the Kyote’s Uber and/or Lyft account to operate.

A growing trend with Kyotes is avoiding registration on any app all together and simply offering rides on the facebook marketplace.

A man illegally offering commercial rides to the public on facebook.

 

Uber driver offering illegal sublet of his vehicle. With a dash of sexual harassment.

During the Rideshare sting in Green Bay on December 23rd Ride Safe found only 1 driver out of 15 Uber and Lyft drivers asked who refused to take an illegal cash hale.

 

The reason Rideshare drivers have been flocking to illegal operations outside of the apps is simple.  There are to many of them saturating each market.

One among many screen captures of daily posts by Uber and Lyft drivers in all major cities reporting low earnings and no work during busy hours.

 

With a saturated market, drivers get far less fares per hour.  Add the issue of only being able to arrange rides through an app and no requirements for proper vetting, insurance or even vehicle marking.

Rideshare drivers aren’t just encouraged to seek out illegal work, they have been primed for it with low standards of regulation, zero required accountability, no cap on the number of vehicles operating and an already fraudulent contracting agreement which they religiously ignore even reading themselves.

Ride safe has collected interviews over the last four years with drivers who clearly indicate they are either ignorant or unwilling to the terms of their own contracting with companies like Uber and Lyft.

Even when those interviews are with INSURANCE agents committing insurance fraud while working for rideshare companies.

The number of drivers on the Uber and Lyft platforms with criminal records found by ride Safe and other media outlets indicates that Rideshare is the perfect work opportunity for the criminally minded.

 

Until now Taxi companies have been able to survive total eradication from rideshare operations mainly because they are accountable, insured and have drivers who can pass a fingerprint background check that is in most cases done by a local police or sherrif’s department.

They also offer service to those without cell phones, the disabled and areas of any given city that may be very low income without bias as many municipal laws mandate them too.

With the passage of AB918 and SB759 these requirements would no longer exist and any incentive to provide service to areas of low income, distant rural areas and the disabled would no longer exits because Taxi companies would no longer be competing for those customers but rather the same customers Rideshare/TNC companies exclusively compete for.

 

The effects of the law

 

Ride Safe will of course experience an IMMENSE amount of new work this legislation will create through more uninsured wrecks, deaths, fraud and assaults on customers that will now be committed by TAXI companies and their drivers through out the state.  Exactly like their Rideshare/TNC counterparts have been doing these last four years in Wisconsin.

This is not the work that Ride Safe had intended to face.

It is Ride Safe’s mission to protect consumer interests, safety and the ability of drivers to provide a safe ride while also making a fair living doing it.

AB918 and SB759 directly conflict with that mission.

Representative Knold and Senator Nass have not offered a solution to the Taxi industry in Wisconsin, they have handed it a death sentence while introducing a new realm of crime and insurance inflation to the tax payers of Wisconsin.

Companies like TaxiMKE will soon come to realize that this legislation was not designed for them as Uber and Lyft will now have a clear path to becoming taxi companies and also offering rideshare service at the same time, state wide.

Any Taxi companies trying to exploit the new laws will attempt to cherry pick street hails in other cities through out the state as well as their own traditional territories while Uber and Lyft increase their own fleet sizes by offering street hail only “taxi” service.  With no requirements for vehicle type, proper vehicle inspections and a regulatory body (DSPS) that doesn’t actually regulate or audit anything, Uber and Lyft will be able to fill these new “taxi” rank services with existing drivers in their own vehicles.

Smaller Taxi companies will survive more or less on keeping to traditional service routs and standards for providing service to all regardless of income, race or disability but it will come at a severe cost in fleet sizes and availability.

The congestion that will be caused by this will turn most major roadways through out Wisconsin into teaming gridlocks that will rival the bustling streets and outer loop highways of New York and LA on busy nights and during games.

 

It is an almost futile hope at this point that the Republican lead legislation of Wisconsin will see reason and end this legislation.

If the legislation does pass, Ride Safe will continue the fight to protect the public in Wisconsin as with anywhere else.  Most Taxi companies in Wisconsin DO NOT want this legislation and have vowed to maintain SAFE and INSURED operations regardless of incentives not to in these laws.

 

If YOU see the reason and wish to make a difference, you can do so by writing as many State senators and assembly representatives as you can and signing THIS PETITION.