As of September 2016 Uber and Lyft are currently operating in Tampa Bay, giving many residents a primary job and income or providing a second job to many more.
This week the Public Transportation Commission voted to strict new regulations for ride sharing in Hillsborough County, the county covering the main downtown area of Tampa, as well as many boarding towns such as Brandon and Riverview, providing residents in these areas much easier access to attractions such as Amalie Arena, home to the Tampa Bay Lightning and the active night life scene of Soho (South Tampa).
The new regulations mandate fingerprinting for drivers, which led to both ride share companies to stop operating in Austin, Texas. The regulations went against appeals and petitions from hundreds of Uber and Lyft drivers and users. Other new regulations included annual vehicle inspections, a 10-year age limit on vehicles and a ban on price surging during states of emergency.
Not all the news was bad however, the PTC did not vote to impose a $7 minimum ride and 7 minute wait time.
The new regulations are set to be adopted in October and Uber and Lyft are extremely likely to fight the restrictions which could mean a lengthy delay in the regulations being enforced on drivers.
All is not lost for current riders and drivers if Uber and Lyft decide to stop operating as they did in Austin. The ride share firm FARE filled the vacancy left in this area and currently has over 3,000 drivers currently operating in Texas after agreeing to fingerprinting and PTC chairman Victor Crist argues that the new regulations open the door for all other ride share firms to come to the market.
The board also agreed to resume talks to settle ongoing lawsuits to overturn tickets issued to ride share drivers for operating without insurance and permits similar to those of a taxicab.
The Florida Chamber, tourism groups and local business leaders are against regulations that would cause Lyft and Uber to leave the area as they argue that people visiting and moving to Florida expect Uber and Lyft to be available at the tap of a button and fear that people will go elsewhere if the service is not available.
Public opinion seems to be on the side of the ride share companies with many feeling that the new regulations are only to appease the taxicab drivers and stifle opportunities within Tampa, both for income and tourism. Even Mayor Buckhorn came out strongly supporting Uber and Lyft and said “This is about competition. Competition is a good thing. If you can’t compete, you don’t deserve to be protected.” He went as far as to say that the PTC should be extinct as it is irrelevant to society, comparing them to dinosaurs.
Currently neither Uber nor Lyft have expressed intentions to stop operating in Hillsborough County and petitions are still being circulated and signed.
Perhaps the Downtowner planned for Tampa’s downtown area will provide a solution in the areas it services due to the service being free, but this won’t help those traveling from outside the areas or for visitors looking for transportation from the airport as a lower cost to the taxicabs.
What do you think about the new regulations? Do you use or drive for Uber or Lyft? Will you be signing the petitions?
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