“Uber” app hits Milwaukee, but city officials say it’s illegal

MILWAUKEE (WITI) — The city of Milwaukee may sue a company funded by actor Ashton Kutcher. The company, called “Uber” has an app that allows users to hitch a ride without paying a cab. City of Milwaukee officials say it’s illegal.

Uber is popular and controversial in large cities across the country. The app launched on Thursday, February 13th in Milwaukee.

With one click, a private vehicle picks you up and takes you to your desired destination.

It’s the newest way to get around in Milwaukee — your own, personal driver.

“We are a technology company, and its a mobile app that connects riders to drivers,” Uber’s General Manager Nick Anderson said.

With the click of a button, a driver in your area is notified and sent your way — and there is no need to hit the ATM.

“All of the payments are handled seamlessly through the app.  You don’t ever have to give the driver credit card information. You never have to give him cash,” Anderson said.

However, there is a problem. Many in City Hall say the new technology is illegal.

“We’re fairly confident, at least on the face of it, they are a cab,” Milwaukee City Clerk Jim Owczarski said.

He says Uber contacted him two months ago to say they were coming to town. Owczarski said great — apply for permits.

“Uber is a rogue application,” Red Christensen with United American Taxi said.

Christensen, with Milwaukee’s largest taxi company says Uber operates without applying for permits.

“Essentially, this company is not registered in the city of Milwaukee, licensed and none of their drivers are licensed,” Christensen said.

“They made it crystal clear they have no intentions of complying with those rules and regulations,” Owczarski said.

On Uber’s first day of operation, Alderman Bob Bauman says he’s asked the city attorney to file a lawsuit against Uber.

“Every city we go to, we research the local requirements.  So they’re licensed, they have the proper insurance, and it’s fully legal,” Anderson said.

Anderson says Uber uses local professional companies and conducts their own background checks.

A FOX6 reporter gave Uber a try on Thursday, and within minutes, the driver, Nael showed up in a Merdedes.

Nael says Uber is evening the playing field — and Nael showed FOX6 all of the necessary licenses for the trip. The app even showed a picture of Nael’s license plate.

After a quick trip, and receipt was sent to FOX6’s reporter’s email. The trip cost $12

It is a convenient program that city leaders say will be tested in court.

“We welcome the new service, but they have to comply with all our applicable rules and regulations regarding limousines, taxis,” Owczarski said.

Uber says right now, they’re doing a soft launch in Milwaukee. They plan to be fully operational in three to four weeks.

Uber is no stranger to lawsuits. A complaint from cabbies in Chicago was filed last week, and there is also a case in Boston. In San Francisco, there’s a wrongful death lawsuit.

Uber is being sued by the family of a six-year-old girl who died in a crash on New Year’s Eve.

They say the driver was using the app when the girl was hit — but Uber denies that claim.

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18 comments

  • Randy

    UBER sounds like a very Good Idea, because these Lazy Cab Drivers from American United just want to pick up the customers who are the $20.00 rides, and not the common Joe like us just going for a $10.00 ride….The Fact that the City of Milwaukee Issued another 100 Cab permits won’t change anything. There will only be 100 additional Permits for the Greedy Cab Drivers to take the more lucrative rides….I hope UBER is a wake up call to the City Licensing Committee to change the rules for the cabs where they will have to take the grocery orders, or the $10.00 rides, and for the Taxi Companies to force the Cabbies to take all rides, not just the Lucrative ones….I’ve heard of Out of Towners on business trips that want to go only a few miles from their Airport Hotel, only having to wait for over a hour to get a Cab….The City of Milwaukee NEEDS to change their rules and force Cab companies to have their drivers take all Rides, whether it goes 5 miles or 50 miles….So UBER is a Welcome site to these Lazy Cab Drivers who only talk on their Cell Phones while they drive, and think it’s a bother to talk to the customer, especially one that is from Out of Town…What Better way to talk up the City of Milwaukee to a Out of Towner than to talk to them instead of their buddy driving another cab…On a recent cab trip , the Cab driver whose cab I was in barely avoided a accident (He would have been at Fault) because he was Yapping away to one of his Cabbie friends….

    • Jesse Dercks

      It not the drivers, it’s the companies. Read. Bloomberg business for a great story. Did you know taxi drivers pay the company for the privilege of driving a taxi? On top of that, the cab company gets a potion of fares. Thank you Uber for disrupting an industry defined by a corruption between elected officials and the few cab companies that fund reelection in exchange for government induced monopolies!

  • Matt H.

    It seems to me that there is always an opposition to new tech or ideas that somehow offsets the old tried and true but broken systems. The bureaucracy and processes that are put in place make it such that folks come up with these ideas to fix a broken system. However, culturally, we decide it’s first be critical and think of all the bad before we give it a far chance.

    This may never take off here and the City of Milwaukee (as the others) is going to dump tax payer money into fighting it. What’s the City’s take on that fare? Do they get a comparable return from Uber as they would any other offering? Or would that offset the value and low cost that is associated with a service like this one?

    If you are from United American, Yellow Cab or any other licensed service out there you should take a hard look at this and consider this as a huge opportunity. This is a challenge to the old guard telling you that your service may not be as convenient or effective as you think it is. Start reaching out and asking more questions and understand the needs and interests of those you serve before you start beating this opportunity down.

  • Jonathan Brewer (@houseofbrew)

    We need better quick trip transportation in our city. Milwaukee NEEDS uber, lyft, and other rideshare services to improve the current situation. It takes far too long to get a cab, the prices are not all that great, and visitors from out of town can’t get around as easily as they should be able to. I also think more people would be encouraged to go out and have a good time at night without worrying about the dangerous drive home if we had more ride services in Milwaukee. We shouldn’t be afraid of this change – we should welcome it.

  • Justin La Plante

    With Uber, Lyft Sidecar, Dream or any TNC you have no insurance coverage for any wreck you get into unless you tell your own insurance provider that you are driving for hire with your own car. That is a $1000 a month policy upgrade by the way. Uber and Lyft dont tell you that you need that coverage upgrade because if you don’t do it, they don’t have to cover any insurance on any wreck you get into by the terms of their service term agreements. If you don’t tell your own insurance provider, they will also drop if you happen to get into a wreck while driving for a TNC if it is your fault or not. So unless you want to pay $1000 a month you are really screwing yourself. It is the perfect con. Uber and Lyft save millions on not covering any incident and YOU end up taking the whole liability. Read your TOS agreement some time and check it with a lawyer if you don’t believe me. May want to read up on EVERY wreck reported in the media that Uber or Lyft have caused and what the insurance did after. This is one reason thee TNCs are banned in two US states and of course here in madison. But as we all know, Milwaukee’s city council knows how to take a corporate bribe.

  • Representative for a sensible public

    Uber drivers are illegal . They seem to think the law only applies to us regular drivers . Read the LAW .
    V C Section 23123.5 Electronic Wireless Communications Device Prohibited Use

    Electronic Wireless Communications Device: Prohibited Use

    23123.5. (a) A person shall not drive a motor vehicle
    while using an electronic wireless communications device to write, send,
    or read a text–based communication, unless the electronic wireless
    communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow
    voice operated and hands-free operation to dictate, send, or listen to a
    text-based communication, and it is used in that manner while driving.

    (b) As used in this section “write, send, or read a
    text-based communication” means using an electronic wireless
    communications device to manually communicate with any person using a
    text-based communication, including, but not limited to, communications
    referred to as a text message, instant message, or electronic mail.
    Cal
    (c) For purposes of this section, a person shall not be
    deemed to be writing, reading, or sending a text–based communication if
    the person reads, selects, or enters a telephone number or name in an
    electronic wireless communications device for the purpose of making or
    receiving a telephone call or if a person otherwise activates or
    deactivates a feature or function on an electronic wireless
    communications device.

  • Mickey

    Here’s what UBER will nevI drove for Uber for slightly under two months and here’s what I found………….Uber is dangerous for public safety and must be shut down . Having to tap a small icon on the Uber device ( phone ) to accept, cancel, arriving, etc., and more takes your eyes completely off of the road . You are oblivious to traffic for those few seconds your looking at your Uber device which can easily cause head – on collisions resulting in immediate death & injury . Even if you, yourself cancels you must proceed with why you are canceling to the little icons on your Uber device and doing so makes you oblivious to traffic and the road ahead of you while driving . There are 6 icons on your Uber device stated on you why your cancelling & you must select one by tapping on one of the little icons . This is frequently done while driving diverting your eyes off the road ahead of you . You are not paying attention to traffic while your concentrating on these little icons on your Uber phone. When driving to get to the the client ( this happened frequently for me ) the client cancels for one reason or another . Because your on the way to pick up your client you receive the cancellation notice while your driving and while your driving your eyes are taken off the road so you can respond to the beeping sound coming from your Uber device . This beeping sound indicates that the client has cancelled the fare . While driving, searching then tapping the icons is more dangerous then texting . Furthermore, there is no time limit to driving . Unlike Taxi drivers who are limited to a ten hour driving period in, San Francisco an Uber driver can drive for 20 hours straight or more . Too much driving creates fatigue often leading to confusion, , falling asleep, hallucinations, dozing off and considerably more inattentiveness which can cause accidents resulting in injury and even death . Being an Uber driver means you must do illegal or unlawful things such as take 8 passengers in your car when there are just 4 seat belts . In my case I was required to take 9 passengers, including myself which would have been 10 people all in a mini van . The weight itself is enough to cause my tires to rub against the wheel wells of my van creating sparks from stones trapped in the threading of my tires which could ignite the fuel tank causing an explosion even killing all those passengers that are trapped inside my mini Van . Another example : That much weight often causes unintentional swerving resulting in an accident .
    After I complained to my Uber representatives via email numerous times about having to take too many passengers creating unsafe driving conditions i received absolutely no response and getting zero response from other Uber drivers complaints may encourage these drivers to do unlawful and dangerous things . If you refuse to take all 9 people when there are only 6 seat belts the clients ( in my case were upset ) gave me a “ one “ rating and if your rating is too low you will be blocked from driving which is what happened in my case . This encourages Uber & Lyft drivers to violate the law . You must also drop drivers off at the designated location the client(s) request creating the impeding of traffic & the sudden slamming of your brakes so you won’t miss the client(s) destination . Again if you don’t you will be graded on your performance from 1 to 5 and in most all cases you will be given the lowest rating such as a “ one “ and you will be blocked from driving . So, refusing to take all nine passengers ( 10 including myself ) because it is unlawful , dangerous and of a safety concern to your passengers and yourself is a reason your account will be terminated bu Uber as is what happened to me .
    There are no vehicle inspections required by Uber drivers meaning if your car’s brakes are failing or wipers not working it’s still OK to drive in the rain . Does Uber care your brakes are failing or wipers aren’t working ? Probally not . They just want their 20% share of your fare and will probally claim no responsibility if your involved in an accident, your brakes fail and wipers don’t work while driving in the rain . In the eyes of Uber you are an independent driver . It is illegal to use your vehicle commercially unless you get commercial registration and insurance . Uber drivers do not have commercial insurance and probally most don’t get commercial registration for their vehicles or the proper insurances so driving commercially for Uber is technically illegal .er tell you . ( copied from an earlier post )

  • Safety inspector

    REVISED !!

    Re : Uber
    I drove for Uber for slightly under two months and here’s what I found………….Uber is dangerous for public safety and must be shut down . Having to tap a small icon on the Uber device ( phone ) to accept, cancel, arriving, etc., and more takes your eyes completely off of the road . You are oblivious to traffic for those few seconds your looking at your Uber device which can easily cause accidents resulting in immediate death & injury . Even if you, yourself cancels the fare you must proceed with why you are cancelling to the little green icons on your Uber device and doing so is a distraction, period . There are 6 icons on your Uber device requesting why your cancelling & you must select one by tapping on one of the icons . This is frequently done while driving diverting your eyes off the traffic ahead of you and this happened often ….. the client will cancel for one reason or another . I received the cancellation notice while I was driving and while I was driving my eyes were taken off the road so I could respond to the beeping sound coming from my Uber device . This beeping sound indicates that the client has cancelled the fare . When getting close to the pick up location while driving you are required to notify the client by again having to locate your Uber device ( some of the drivers keep it on their lap ) then tapping on an “ arriving “ icon. This is more dangerous then texting .
    Furthermore, there is no time limit to driving . Unlike Taxi drivers who are limited to a ten hour driving period in, San Francisco an Uber driver can drive for 20 hours straight or more . Too much driving creates fatigue often leading to confusion, , falling asleep, hallucinations, dozing off and considerably more inattentiveness which can cause accidents resulting in injury and even death .
    Being an Uber driver means you are subjected to violating laws ( that were put there for public safety ) such as take eight passengers in your car when there are only four seat belts or you will be FIRED by Uber . In my case I got a call to take nine passengers, including myself that which would have been ten people total all in a mini van . The weight itself is enough to cause my tires to rub against the wheel wells of my van creating sparks from stones trapped in the threading of my tires which could ignite the fuel tank causing an explosion even killing all those passengers that are trapped inside my mini Van . It was dangerous . So, over safety concerns I was FIRED by Uber from driving for doing what was lawfully right and after I explained to my, Santa Barbara – Uber representatives via email numerous times about having to take too many passengers creating unsafe driving conditions so I could be reinstated my request was ignored . You are rated after each fare by your passenger(s) from one to five and if your rating is too low you will be FIRED . This causes drivers to violate the law in order to maintain a high rating or their driving privileges with Uber will be suspended . So, refusing to take all nine passengers ( 10 including myself ) because it is unlawful , dangerous and of a safety concern to your passengers and yourself is a reason a driver will be FIRED . This means failing to run red lights at customer request means you will be FIRED by Uber .
    There are no vehicle inspections required by Uber drivers meaning if your car’s brakes are failing or wipers not working it’s still OK to drive in the rain . Does Uber care your brakes are failing or wipers aren’t working ? Probally not . They just want their 20% share of your fare and will claim no responsibility if your involved in an accident because they will say your an independent driver . Then if a claim is put against the driver’s insurance Company that claim will be denied because you were using the vehicle commercially . It is illegal to use your vehicle commercially unless you get commercial registration and insurance . Uber drivers do not have commercial insurance and probally most don’t get commercial registration for their vehicles or the proper insurances so driving commercially for Uber is technically illegal . Not getting commercial plates and insurance means the loss of millions of dollars for all States .

  • Holly

    Promo Code: FIRSTRIDE30 provided a free ride up to $30. Used Uber ride for the first time last night from suburbs to downtown Milwaukee and thought it was very convenient, friendly and reliable service; I would highly recommend someone at least giving Uber a try.

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