Taxi companies concerned by Lyft's expansion into La Crosse

Companies worry Lyft has no regulations

Taxi companies concerned by Lyft's...

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - A new method of transportation is available in the La Crosse area that could impact the taxi industry.

Lyft, which recently expanded into La Crosse last week, is a ride-share app that allows users to catch a ride with drivers using their own cars instead of traditional taxis.

But there's a lack of local regulation on the industry, and that has some taxi companies concerned they they aren't competing on a level playing field.

Logan Bar owner and Tavern League President Mike Brown launched Coulee Region Taxi last May.

"We were having a hard time getting taxis for our customers when we need them,” Brown said.

The taxi service offers rides for a variety of functions, but also serves to help the Tavern League's Safe Ride program.

"We've increased our ridership on safe rides probably 30 to 40 percent since we've started,” Brown said.

Like other taxi services, Brown's business is under regulation by the city.

"You have to have a $2 million liability policy, the vehicle has got to be so new, great working condition. They have to be inspected every year for good, safe, working vehicles,” Brown said.

Wisconsin law prohibits cities from regulating companies, such as Lyft, which has Brown concerned.

"If they're not playing by the same rules we are, that really gives them an unfair advantage,” Brown said.

But some residents in town said the service has been a long time coming. 

"I've just had a negative experience with taxis,” said resident Sydney Doeseckle. “They are unsanitary and pricey."

He has used Lyft in Madison, and he's ready to take advantage of the service here in La Crosse.

"It's just an app, and you honestly just click a button and they come,” Doeseckle said. “They were super kind. I had no problems at all. I had some good conversations."

But Brown worries that Lyft could impact his taxi business, as well as the Safe Ride program.

"In all aspects, we've been a success. I just hate to see this put it in jeopardy because we need the other rides to offset the cost of the Safe Rides,” Brown said.

According to Lyft's website, the company does background checks on all of its drivers.

The company also has a $1 million insurance liability policy.

Users are able to rate each driver based on performance, and how quick they were to respond.

If you rate a certain driver low enough, the app does not match you with that driver again.

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