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

Posted on: 8:46 pm, February 13, 2014, by , updated on: 10:21pm, February 13, 2014

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.

12 comments

  • Randy says:

    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 says:

      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!

  • Buttt Holes says:

    What is a Merdedes? Spell check anyone?

  • mike says:

    A Merdedes I think is like a Yugo……Yu Go here, and Yu Go there….lol

  • Grace says:

    They take forever to pick up cAlls,say over an hour wait,and I’m surprised they haven’t crashed as its hard to yap and hear and see an emergency!!!!

  • Matt H. says:

    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.

  • 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.

  • Chris says:

    Sign up with promo code “ubermeplease” and get $20 off your first ride! http://uber.com/invite/ubermeplease

  • faffing says:

    $20 off your first Uber ride: uber.com/invite/uber20$offer
    :)

  • Jake9999 says:

    Want a free $20 UBER voucher/credit towards your first ride? Simply enter i81wg in the promotions section of the UBER app. No minimum purchase required. Enjoy!

  • Uber says:

    Use promo code “UberLife20″ for $20 off your first ride!

  • Shukhrat says:

    I’m wont work for Uber in Milwaukee Eria
    Haw I can full Aplication??
    Please give me direction

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