With buses idle, taxis and ‘ride-shares’ see chance to pick up more rides

The first mention I saw came from smartphone app TAXIMKE, in an emailed press release Tuesday. It began, “As the pending strike looms…”

TAXIMKE, a mobile app-centered rebrand for traditional taxi company American United Taxi Co., was first but not last to capitalize on the Milwaukee County Transit System work stoppage. With buses out of commission, Uber, Lyft and taxis are all seeing the opportunity to pick up more rides.

Late Tuesday and early this morning, San Francisco-based mobile ride-booking apps Lyft and Uber jumped onto the bandwagon.

“No @RideMCTS?” tweeted Lyft Inc.’s Milwaukee Twitter account.“Use a friend’s referral code for a free ride.”

This morning, Uber launched a rallying cry via hashtag, the pound sign-denoted social media marker of trending topics.

“Fewer transportation options shouldn’t stop you from getting where you need to go. We’re here to help #KeepMKEMoving,” its Wisconsin Twitter account posted this morning.

When Uber launched last year in Milwaukee, it listed Summerfest rides as one motive for entering the market. It has a heavy presence at this year’s event, offering Summerfest-specific promotional codes for first-time riders to travel free, and partnering with the event itself.

According to our news partner, FOX6, it is estimated that 15 percent to 20 percent of Summerfest attendees utilize MCTS shuttle service. In a potential boon to their business, Summerfest officials are encouraging festival attendees use taxis and mobile ride-booking services during the three days those services will be down.

They’re still competing against one another, of course.

In a not-so-subtle dig at its nontraditional competition, TAXIMKE’s press release reminds riders it doesn’t have surge pricing, Uber and Lyft’s practice of raising prices when ridership is high in hopes of attracting more drivers to meet demand.

If riders do indeed flock to the smartphone app-fueled options, Milwaukee could well see some spiking surge prices throughout the bus system suspension. When that happens, the apps typically encourage users to keep checking back, as the surge prices are subject to change depending on driver availability.