Minneapolis rideshare co-op hopes to expand in Twin Cities

With one month before Uber and Lyft insist they’ll leave Minneapolis and perhaps the entire metro area, alternative services are scrambling to fill the potential void.

One of them, called Ride Co-op, was introduced Friday with full support of the Minnesota Uber and Lyft Drivers Association (MULDA).
"If Uber and Lyft want to leave, they’re ok to leave because we have choices now," said Marianna Brown, VP of MULDA. "And we’re not going to be intimidated. We’re not going to be threatened by them."

Co-op Ride is a driver-owned ride-share company launched in New York City in 2001. Initially intended as an Uber/Lyft competitor, it switched its focus to non-emergency medical transportation.

But in Minneapolis, they intend to be a full passenger service, and they’re hoping to quickly attract drivers and riders.

"We just started today and I think so far today 200 drivers have signed up, so hoping that in the next few days, that number keeps shooting up," said Eric Forman, who was part of launching Co-op Ride in New York and helping organize it here. "But we also need riders. So we’re calling on the people of Minnesota - get involved. This is going to be your company, make it happen."

Co-op Ride is also currently trying to launch in Denver, Colorado.

In New York City, the service takes a 15% commission from each trip, giving more to the drivers. Profits, he says, are either re-invested in the company or given as dividends to drivers.

There are more than 10,000 registered Uber and Lyft drivers in Minnesota, according to a state study released earlier this month. Together, they make more than 20-million trips a year, 95% of them in the seven county metro.

The City of Minneapolis says they’ve already received three permit applications from alternative rideshare services. The city has promised to fast-track them, but there are other hurdles involved.

The permit has a nearly $50,000 fee, plus there are state requirements for liability and driver background checks.

All of this as the May 1 deadline approaches, which is when the city’s rideshare minimum wage ordinance takes effect and Uber and Lyft say they’ll exit the market.
Meantime, work continues at the state capitol to hammer out legislation to establish better pay on a statewide level that Uber and Lyft can live with. Legislators seem optimistic that can be achieved in time.

There are questions, too, about whether new services with permits in Minneapolis can offer rides throughout the metro area, or if additional and potentially costly permits in other cities would also be required.

But MULDA, which pushed so hard for the minimum wage ordinance believes new services can be ready in time, if not encourage Uber and Lyft to come to a compromise.

"MULDA is excited in welcoming them to town and will cooperate in making them effective," said Eid Ali, the organizations president. "Only two major companies, two companies have hijacked the whole state."