Rideshare firms may leave metro on May 1

Transportation network companies Uber and Lyft could end service in Minneapolis and beyond May 1, if a dispute over pay […]

Stone Arch Bridge at night

Transportation network companies Uber and Lyft could end service in Minneapolis and beyond May 1, if a dispute over pay cannot be resolved. That is causing consternation for Twin Cities area residents with disabilities who rely on rideshare services. Many are wondering how they will get to get to and from work and school, and to other destinations. 

The Minneapolis City Council set the controversy in motion in March by passing an ordinance requiring rideshare companies to pay drivers at least $1.40 per mile and 51 cents per minute on rides to, from and through the city. The increase would start May 1. 

Lyft officials said they would end service in Minneapolis. Uber would drop service in Minneapolis and surrounding communities, and at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. 

Mayor Jacob Frey vetoed the ordinance. The veto was then overturned by the council, in what is called an override vote. 

As Access Press went to press, there was a proposal to reconsider the vote slated for April 11. 

State officials have jumped into the fray, noting that the council voted before a state report on rideshare was released. That report recommends rideshare wages of 49 cents per minute and 89 cents per mile. 

Gov. Tim Walz has also called for a compromise. But at events in late March, he expressed skepticism about the ability to find a compromise. He has called out the debate as “playing chicken” with people with disabilities. 

Metropolitan Council, which oversees Metro Transit and the Metro Mobility paratransit service, is also watching the situation closely. 

As of late March state lawmakers were considering what if anything they could do. House Republicans want to pre-empt efforts like the one in Minneapolis, and retain the major rideshare companies.  Other smaller rideshare firms and the remaining taxi companies have announced that they would help fill the void if Uber and Lyft leave. 

But Minneapolis and St. Paul have lost many of their taxi companies in the face of competition with transportation network companies. Taxis can be more expensive than a rideshare company. Another issue is that costs may not be covered by waivers. 

One challenge for people with disabilities is that riders use state waivers to get rides and it’s not clear if taxi rides would be covered by those. ConnectAbility of MN is trying to help disabled Minnesotans find other options, and has put an emergency plan into action. ConnectAbility estimates that losing Uber and Lyft would affect thousands of clients, including 2,128 Minneapolis residents. 

But transportation network companies haven’t always provided the access for disabled riders that is needed. Rideshare companies have been criticized for not having accessible vehicles, and in some cases, refusing to accommodate riders who have service animals. 

Greater Minnesota residents with disabilities face transportation issues of their own. Just as there are demands at the state capitol to address the Minneapolis rideshare controversy, there are also calls to improve transportation options statewide. 

State lawmakers are told that too many greater Minnesota residents with disabilities and elders are missing important rides for health care and medical appointments. Some have had to use ambulances as a costly ride home from hospitals. 

Medicaid recipients are required under federal law to have transportation if it is needed. But transportation companies are having the same hiring and costs struggles other employers face. Many companies are turning down as many as 100 ride requests per day. Some companies are cutting service areas. 

Rural transportation companies, medical and social services associations are pushing for a needed rate increase to keep Greater Minnesta transportation companies operating. Last session the per-mile rate was raised for the first time since 2015, In January, nonemergency medical transportation companies saw their first reimbursement since 2015, from $1.30 to $1.43 per mile. For rides for a passenger who needs a lift or ramp, and help with a chair, the rate increased from $1.55 to $1.77. But that is seen as inadequate. 

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