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Undercover cops “protect” consumers from scary innovation by targeting Uber and Lyft

Police in Madison conducted a sting operations last weekend, wearing plain clothes and lying in wait to catch criminals. No, they weren’t going after a drug lord or a rapist. Using the popular Uber and Lyft apps to summon rides, police issued the unsuspecting drivers tickets for violating taxi ordinances and for failing to have the proper licensing for transporting passengers.

Innovative taxi services like Uber and Lyft have been targeted before for threatening corporate interests, but the actions of these undercover police have caused many to question why the city is so adamant about eradicating a service people have come to rely on.

The resulting fines for the two drivers from Lyft and Uber totaled $1,300. Captain Richard Bach of Madison’s traffic division justified the fines, stating they’re meant to “send a message that the city was not going to tolerate their operation without licensing.”

City officials were hoping the drivers would voluntarily stop giving rides, but the demand for the product was too high. In Pittsburgh, where Uber has experienced the fastest growth, 23 tickets were issued last week. The fines were between $25 and $300. Many riders in the area rallied to Uber’s cause, using the hashtag #PGHNeedsUber to encourage people to contact state officials.

Lyft has promised to pay for their drivers’ fines, as well as provide legal assistance. A Lyft representative stated to Fast Company, “We are in conversations with local leaders in these cities and hope to identify a path forward that will allow ridesharing to thrive.”

Lyft’s optimism is encouraging given that regular taxi services show no signs of stopping their war on free enterprise. Uber is expected to pay the fines their drivers incurred as well.

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