Customers with disabilities trying to navigate road ahead amid concerns over Uber, Lyft leaving Minneapolis

Rideshare Customers with Disabilities Trying to Navigate Road Ahead

Rideshare Customers with Disabilities Trying to Navigate Road Ahead

The future of rideshare service in the Twin Cities is on the minds of many following the Minneapolis City Council’s vote to approve an ordinance that sets minimum pay requirements for drivers.

The concerns stem from threats from two major rideshare companies, Uber and Lyft, to leave the city when the ordinance takes effect on May 1. In fact, Uber says it will leave the entire metro area, including Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

State lawmakers have been working on rideshare driver pay legislation and it’s starting to gain further traction following the developments in Minneapolis this week. Friday afternoon, House Republicans announced a plan to introduce new legislation that would preempt local regulations to keep Uber and Lyft in the Twin Cities.

“The Minneapolis City Council’s ordinance was intended to help drivers but it will end up doing just the opposite,” Rep. Elliot Engen (R-Lino Lakes) said. “They ignored repeated warnings from Uber and Lyft about discontinuing service in Minneapolis due to the ordinance, but the City Council pressed ahead anyway. On May 1st, these jobs will be gone, and the Minneapolis City Council will have set the real minimum wage for rideshare drivers to $0.”

In the meantime, people who rely on rideshare services are left to figure out what to do.

“It’s a huge issue, it’s a people issue,” said Sheri Wegner, the executive director of ConnectAbility of MN.“We’ve had to enact our emergency action plan.”

ConnectAbility helps thousands of Minnesotans with disabilities get rides through Lyft with the use of state waivers. Now, Wegner says the organization is trying to help people figure out future transportation if Uber and Lyft limit services.

“This isn’t affecting one aspect of their life, this is going to have a catastrophic effect on their entire life,” Wegner said.

For example, she said if a person lives in Ramsey County, but works in Minneapolis, this rideshare issue will affect their livelihood.

“This just isn’t affecting Minneapolis — it’s affecting a good chunk of the metro,” Wegner said.

She added there isn’t a transportation network that can fill the void from rideshare at this point, which is why they are helping people navigate potentially losing rideshare.

The Minneapolis ordinance sets minimum pay for rideshare drivers at $1.40 per mile and 51 cents per minute while drivers are in city limits. Council members say those rates best approximate the city’s $15.57 minimum wage, contrary to a state report that put those rates at 49 cents per minute and 89 cents per mile. The ordinance also includes a $5 minimum payment per trip and requires 80% of canceled ride fees to be paid to drivers.

“We’re going to have a transportation system in our city that is equitable that pays fair wages and you can raise a family on,” Minneapolis City Council President Elliott Payne said.

Uber and Lyft say those rates price them out of the market.

Lyft sent emails to both drivers and riders on Friday announcing its departure from Minneapolis. The emails state that the ordinance passed by Minneapolis City Council would “make rides on the Lyft platform unaffordable for the majority of Minneapolis residents.” According to Lyft, this would cause drivers to ultimately earn less.

The emails end, in part, “We’ll continue to advocate for rideshare policies in Minnesota that create sustainable solutions that work for both drivers and riders.”

Rideshare driver Matthew McGlory, supports the pay increase and isn’t worried about work, as he feels there’s a lot of customers for rideshare companies in Minneapolis.

“Why would they want to leave when we have lucrative industry going on and we have drivers that are more than willing to service passengers,” McGlory said.

Dakota County Commissioner Liz Workman says she’s thankful that Lyft plans to maintain service in the suburbs.

“A little bit of a sigh of relief,” she said.

Workman’s daughter uses a county program that helps people with a variety of disabilities get to work but she’s also worried about the fallout for others who use the county rideshare programs.

“They have their reasons for their vote but the armchair quarterback in me is saying you just messed up a lot of stuff,” Workman said.

She also doesn’t believe there are enough other transportation options to help those with disabilities.

“Many people are going to lose a job because they’ve lost transportation to their job,” Wegner said.

The companies, meanwhile, say they want to be part of the driver pay conversation happening at the Capitol.

As of Friday afternoon, the city of Minneapolis spokesperson told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the “City has not received any new license applications from transportation network companies.“ Conversations, the spokesperson pointed out have taken place, but no official license applications have been filed.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached out to Gov. Tim Walz’s office for his take but hasn’t yet heard back.