Taxi services

Madison’s Tesla ride-sharing company shifts gears on taxi services, clogging up local taxi operations – Tone Madison

Green Cab no longer operates 24/7, a change that violates Madison’s taxi ordinances.

As quietly as the Tesla fleet it runs, a Madison transportation company ceased taxi service operations this year, confusing longtime taxi users and others in the transportation industry. city ​​transport.

Mobility Transformation, Inc. owns and operates many transportation-adjacent businesses in Dane County. He is the current owner of Green Cab and Van Go Transit transportation services. The parent company also owns Mobile22, a transportation-focused logistics company, and technology company Zerology, which operates software and technology systems used by environmentally friendly ride-sharing apps in Dane County.

Mobility Transformation purchased Green Cab and Badger Cab in 2020 to expand the city’s transportation footprint. Badger Cab employees quickly transitioned to the Green Cab brand and operating a mix of all-electric Chevrolet Bolts and Model 3 Teslas. This change even earned Zerology the title of 2020 Dane County Climate Champion, awarded by Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. Currently, Green Cab operates around 30 Teslas and a handful of Bolts.

Sponsor

When Mobility Transformation bought Green Cab, the company invested $5 million to create the nation’s first all-Tesla taxi service, but has now shifted gears in its operations.

In an internal Zerology email obtained by Your Madisonthe technology company’s vice president of mobility, Bob Frick, spoke to all Green Cab drivers about the company’s operational changes in March.

“As of today, we are no longer operating 24/7,” Frick said in the email.

Frick told drivers that Green Cab’s hours of operation are 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

“All rides must be pre-ordered i.e. no ‘flags’ (including airport), no private ‘on-demand’ calls” , explains Frick in the e-mail. “We will focus our efforts and resources on servicing the most predictable and profitable accounts.”

Operation as a taxi service is subject to rules and regulations under general city ordinances, including 24/7 operation and accepting “on-demand” passengers , or passengers who signal a vehicle and are not parked along a fixed route. According to general city ordinances, accessible vehicle operations and airport shuttle services also separate taxi services from other forms of transportation.

The immediate change has confused regular Green Cab users and put a strain on the city’s dwindling taxi fleet, said Bill Carter, business manager for Green Cab’s largest remaining competition, Union Cab of Madison Cooperative. (Note: Union Cab is a Your Madison sponsor.)

“Basically overnight they went from 24 hours to over 24 hours,” Carter says. “Our people would get calls and they would either tell them what the price was or tell them how long the wait was, and then people would express some frustration.”

Carter says Union Cab, which typically has 30 cabs on the road at any given time, has seen riders walk away from the cab business following the quiet shift, as wait times and fares increased.

Green Cab now follows state TNC rules instead of local taxi ordinances

Madison’s taxi companies circumvented the requirements of the 24/7 ordinance: A wave of armed taxi robberies in 2018 led Green Cab to halt overnight services. The emergence of transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft Wisconsin paved the way for the circumvention of local ordinances.

A 2015 bipartisan bill allows companies like Uber and Lyft to operate outside local government rules. The bill, which quickly became law, allows tech companies to operate as long as they obtain a $5,000 state-regulated annual license, have insurance and conduct driver background checks. A stricter Madison ordinance, which would have banned surge pricing and included 24/7 operation stipulations, was proposed before the state bill in 2015, but the bill of the state has curbed any local control.

Now, while taxi companies in Madison and beyond are subject to local ordinances, TNCs are overseen by the Department of Safety and Professional Services, the same department that licenses acupuncturists, mechanics of elevators, real estate brokers and social workers, (and has also been in a massive backlog of applications for years, attributed to dismal staffing shortages).

Green Cab fleets are in a bit of a limbo as passengers are used to flagging them down, but in theory they should be operating using the ride service’s app. Carter says he and other Union Cab drivers have seen Green Cab drivers operating as taxis, picking up greeted passengers or operating at the airport, since operational changes were issued by Green Cab.

Mobility Transformation Inc CEO Shree Kalluri said all of the transportation companies they operate in Madison will now focus on pre-scheduled rides, with an emphasis on non-emergency medical visits and school contracts.

“I don’t think we’re picking up more flags – I hope not,” Kalluri said.

He says the decision to stop on-demand services was passed on to previous users who had commercial contracts and users who used online services, but Green Cab was not immediately able to weed out the calls. incoming traffic and divert people from on-demand routes.

References to the company operating as an on-demand, 24/7 service can still be found in Google search metadata and on Green Cab’s website.

The evolution of Green Cab towards more predictable and pre-arranged rides

Kalluri says the company has moved away from on-demand services because multinationals like Uber and Lyft have “market power.” He says it was difficult to change consumer behavior and Green Cab had its most successful business with pre-arranged rides and contract services.

“Instead of being everything for everyone, we realized that it’s a good business strategy, it’s better for us to specialize in scheduled and pre-arranged transport,” says Kalluri.

“All the transports we do are already planned at least 24 hours in advance so that we have predictability on the demand side,” says Kalluri. “We can find the drivers and have a predictable supply, ensuring that our quality of service will improve.”

Mobility Transformation also operates its electric fleet outside of Madison. MTI Transit, LLC, another umbrella company, has a contract with the northwest town of Black River Falls to operate as a “shared taxi”, acting as public transportation for towns without dedicated subway services. More of these contracts, also known as Section 5311 Transportation for a Grant Program that provides Wisconsin Department of Transportation funding, federal funding and city dollars, are on the horizon for MTI Transit. .

“We really think this is a good opportunity to electrify and spread electrification in rural America,” Kalluri says.

Lack of warning leaves local taxis in turmoil, with no recourse

As Mobility Transformation expands its transportation goals and footprint, the City of Madison now has only two dedicated taxi services in operation, Union Cab and Madison Taxi. The various appendages of transportation, from pedestrian walking to bus rapid transit, have become central issues for Madison as the city grapples with its transportation goals. (And the city has a history of narrowly avoiding collisions with tech-based transportation companies and their lofty goals.)

City of Madison records received through a public records request show that the Department of Transportation and other city engineering officials are aware of Green Cab’s departure from the taxi business. City of Madison transportation operations analyst Keith Pollock said Your Madison that outside of ordinance violations ranging from a fine of $20 to $200 that would be handled by the police department, the city doesn’t have much enforcement power.

“There really isn’t much to do,” Pollock said.

While Mobility Transformation is a private company and can make operational changes when it chooses its direction, Carter says a notice to passengers would have been helpful for the rest of the taxi industry in Madison. He says he has spoken with the city’s transportation committee as well as the transportation policy and planning council about potential changes to the ordinances to ease future confusion and taxi turmoil. .

Carter says the biggest concern is that if ride-sharing services continue to operate in the unattended outskirts of town, the city could “wake up one day and not have some of its transportation.”

When Mobility Transformation burst onto the Madison transportation scene comparing the taxi company’s electric fleet to part of Telsa founder Elon Musk’s master plan, Carter said Union Cab and Madison Taxi were approached. by the company as part of its acquisition process.

If Mobility Transformation had acquired Union Cab and Madison Taxi, given the company’s recent sudden left shift to on-demand-only service, Madison’s taxi landscape would have disappeared.

“And then a few months ago (Green Cab) said there were no more cabs in Madison,” Carter says, “and so overnight there are no more cabs. So, for people who have a doctor’s appointment at times when a bus can’t serve, they’re out of luck For older people who might not have a smartphone, they’re out of luck Bad luck. If you don’t have a credit card, you’re out of luck.