Lyft leaving Minneapolis: App offers 'compromise' to city council

Uber and Lyft have said they will end service in the City of Minneapolis on May 1 over an ordinance giving drivers a pay raise in the city.

On Wednesday, in a message to council members, Lyft leaders pushed the council to change the ordinance to match a state recommendation. 

The letter to Council President Elliott Payne from Lyft's Chief Policy Officer Jeremy Bird says the company would support paying drivers 89 cents per mile and about 49 cents per minute, matching the recommendation from a state study by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI).

Lyft claims their projections show that the passed Minneapolis ordinance would raise ride costs to the point that it would decrease ride requests by a whopping 51 percent – ultimately cutting earnings for drivers. Lyft says the state report's recommendation would raise driver pay by 17 percent.

This isn't the first time Lyft has backed the recommendations from the state study. However, it's worth noting that, last month, Lyft blasted the state study – which found that drivers were underpaid after accounting for expenses -- calling it "nonsensical" and accusing the researchers of having a track record of "error-filled analysis".

Now, Lyft is leaning on that report's recommendation as a compromise.

"Lyft is offering a compromise that would truly raise driver pay while saving this vital transportation access and driver earning opportunity," Bird writes. "We are asking the City Council to work with us to prevent a disastrous outcome for riders, drivers, and the City of Minneapolis."

Currently, the Minneapolis ordinance will require that drivers make $1.40 per mile and 51 cents per minute. The Lyft offer would drop per-mile pay by about a third.

Council members are already planning to reconsider the ordinance at its April 11 meeting. However, it's unclear what action, if any, council members might take. It's also possible any action could be held over until the council's April 25 meeting.

Despite calls for state intervention by some, this week, Governor Tim Walz said the best solution to keep the apps in Minneapolis would be action by the city council.

While Lyft is only planning to suspend service in Minneapolis, Uber has promised to leave the entire metro starting May 1.

Public Defender's Office warns of repercussions

Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Michael Berger also sent an email this week to the council warning about his concerns if Uber and Lyft leave the city.

Berger says his clients often depend on Uber and Lyft to make court hearings and Uber and Lyft leaving could bring about unintended harm.

"Our office represents some of the most vulnerable residents of our city. Many of our clients are living in poverty, chemically dependent, and mentally ill. All of our clients have pending matters in the criminal court system," writes Berger. "Transportation to and from court hearings is a consistent barrier to fair and equitable outcomes in criminal court. Far too often, failure to attend court – because of inadequate transportation – results in warrants for arrest. Warrants for arrest – as we have tragically seen – result in death for a disproportionate number of the Black and brown residents of our city."

Berger adds his office is seeking alternatives for his clients, but hasn't yet found any viable options.

What alternatives are there?

Earlier this week, Council Member Robin Wonsley pointed to six apps that were looking to move into the Twin Cities, if Uber and Lyft do end service in Minneapolis.

However, it's unclear if any will be ready to go by May 1, the deadline imposed by Uber and Lyft, or ready to cover the volume of rides.

Only one of the apps, Wridz (pronounced "rides"), is already operating on a larger-scale basis, currently serving 18 metros nationwide. Another app, Co-op Ride, has been endorsed by a coalition of Twin Cities Uber and Lyft drivers. It currently operates in New York and is also looking to expand to Denver.

Most of the other apps are startups in the process of launching.

Taxis would also struggle to fill the gap. Last month, FOX 9 learned there were only 39 licensed cab drivers in Minneapolis, down from nearly 2,000 in 2014.