Madison police have not issued any tickets to drivers from ride-sharing apps Lyft and Uber, who were active in the city over the weekend despite warnings from officials and threats of citations.
The Madison City Attorney’s Office issued a memorandum last week finding that the companies are operating as taxis, meaning they are violating city ordinances.
That led Madison police on Wednesday to ask the drivers to stop giving rides, saying they could face fines of hundreds of dollars.
A cursory check of the Lyft and Uber apps showed a number of drivers weren’t following the department’s request over the weekend.
But Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said no citations were issued.
Lyft and Uber, which are active in many other cities and recently launched in Madison, use smartphone apps to match people needing rides with drivers using their personal vehicles.
Once at their destination, riders decide on a “donation” to give their driver using a debit or credit card tied to their account. Drivers keep the majority of the donation, splitting it with the company.
The companies claim that because they do not require a fee, customers technically are not hiring their drivers, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
But, as they have in other cities, the apps are facing resistance from local companies who argue they should be subject to the same licensing standards as other taxis.
City officials are working to find a way for the services to function legally, but in the meantime Madison police Capt. Carl Gloede told drivers they could face fines for operating as taxis without a license.
The citations would be $681 for the company and $303 for the driver, Gloede said, but he said he hoped police could count on compliance from the drivers.
Before the weekend, Gloede said officers on patrol would have the option of citing drivers or giving them warnings.
Still, finding the drivers was not a “significant priority” over other public safety issues, he said.
DeSpain did not know if any drivers were warned.