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Illustration by Evan Hughes. Tech companies have a somewhat odd tendency to toy with the English language. For example, Uber and Lyft, which have made a loud entry into the Milwaukee market this year, use technology to deliver services they call “ridesharing.”  In early August, however, Lyft and Uber unveiled new services called Lyft Line […]


Illustration by Evan Hughes.

Tech companies have a somewhat odd tendency to toy with the English language. For example, Uber and Lyft, which have made a loud entry into the Milwaukee market this year, use technology to deliver services they call “ridesharing.” 

In early August, however, Lyft and Uber unveiled new services called Lyft Line and UberPool, which allow passengers to truly “share” rides in a more literal sense. Users would be able to use the standard Lyft or Uber mobile app to request a ride at a discounted rate, which would be split with another user headed in the same direction. 
So let’s say, for example, that you live on Milwaukee’s East Side, and you want to see some live music on a Friday night in Bay View. Odds are there’s someone else in your neighborhood looking to do the same. Using these services, you’d tap in a request on your phone with your starting and end points, and be notified of your co-rider when someone requests a similar route. You and your co-rider would then split the ride to your destination, and pay less than you would have alone. 
“Ninety percent of Lyft rides have someone else taking the same trip within five minutes,” says Peter Burgelis, a driver who coordinates local marketing efforts for Lyft.
Uber says its passengers would save 40 percent on “Pool” compared to a more standard UberX ride, and Lyft says passengers would save 60 percent on “Line.” Both services are currently being rolled out in each company’s home city, San Francisco. Early returns appear to be positive, and Lyft – the smaller of the two companies – has acquired Hitch, a company offering a similar product, to expand Line.
Neither service has been made available in the Milwaukee market yet. “Although Milwaukee is one of the better-performing cities for Lyft, we’re not sure whether the program will be expanded here,” says Burgelis. 
Burgelis says that despite the city having the “most expensive rideshare license in the country,” the city’s recent legislation regarding such services is “receptive to idea of ridesharing.” He says, “Milwaukee is one of the first cities to adopt ridesharing legislation.” In general, Lyft seems to have good things to say about doing business in Milwaukee and the potential for these new, more literal ridesharing services.
Uber? Not so much.
“While we’re exploring other markets for UberPool, I want to make it clear that the ordinance the Common Council passed and the mayor recently signed demonstrates a lack of understanding about how ridesharing and products like UberPool should be regulated,” says Jennifer Mullin, Uber spokesperson. “The ordinance treats rideshare like taxis and makes Milwaukee one of the most expensive and burdensome cities in the country with a vehicle fee of $359 per driver partner. Basically, it hammers a square ridesharing peg into a circular taxi hole.”
Milwaukee’s new ordinance applying to ridesharing went into effect Sept. 1, and clearly, it didn’t quell all concerns from the companies’ standpoints. Both face legal concerns and regulatory blowback in cities across the country, so Milwaukee’s problems are not special. And to be sure, there’s a debate worth having in the realm of regulation.
But these new services could prove particularly beneficial in the tipsy, public transportation-less, event-hungry city that is Milwaukee, and we should be prepared for this next wave to roll into town. ■

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