The Public Transport Commission [PTC] continues the battle between ridesharing companies, Uber, and their rival company Lyft, over their right to operate legally.
Both companies have expanded and have been taken global, however, just because they are present everywhere, does not mean drivers are operating legally within those city limits. Uber and Lyft are being accused of operating without a public license, and there is a growing concern for the safety of the travelling public.
Uber is currently available in 52 countries. The company has expanded worldwide from America to Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific.
Lyft is also currently in major cities, across different states in America and the company has expanded to international cities as well. Lyft has landed in major cities of other countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam.
However, even though Uber and Lyft make their way into new territories, they still continue to fight regulation battles in existing operating locations.
Dating back to 2014, some countries like New Delhi, Thailand, and Spain banned the ride-sharing service. Where Uber originated, the United States, number of cities have written cease-and-desist letters to Uber and Lyft, and in some extreme cases, have gone as far as suing them. During the first two couple of weeks in December of 2014, it was reported that Portland, Oregon filed a law suit against Uber for operating illegally within the city limits. Despite issuing cease-and-desist letters and fining drivers caught operating under Uber certified vehicles, the city had had enough.
Other cities on the west coast took action and the District attorneys of both Los Angeles and San Francisco also filed civil consumer protection suit against the Uber Company.
Uber and Lyft both came to the Tampa, Florida area in April of 2015, and according to the Tampa Bay News, since then the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission has been issuing driver citations for those drivers operating illegally.
Public Transportation Commission Executive Director Kyle Cockreem told BuzzFeed News, that since Uber and Lyft launched in Tampa in April, the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission has attempted to work out a deal with the ridesharing companies.
This fight between the Public Transportation Commission and Uber and its rival Lyft has been going on for two years. However, the battle intensified when the county started punishing drivers with hefty citations. Collectively three citations sum up to $700, and along with those citations, Uber and Lyft also receive citations for aiding and abetting each of the drivers.
A total of 1115 drivers have received three citations for: illegal operation, operating a public vehicle without proper certification, and not having proper insurance.
Taxi and limo drivers want ride-sharing companies to abide by the same regulations they have to undergo in order to operate legally; undergoing background checks and vehicle inspections. For taxi and limo drivers must undergo fingerprint screening before being hired as drivers. While Uber and Lyft just simply use a software program to check a national database for their new employed drivers, of the last seven years instead. The problem: Not every state’s records are available online.
Another issue taxi and limo drivers’ face is a 40 day window, to comply with car inspections. However, many Uber and Lyft drivers don’t even work for the respective companies for that long. And, as a result that means passengers could be riding in uninspected cars.
Apart from operating illegally, local taxi and limo services can’t compete with the low rates that Uber and Lyft offer. Under new proposed regulations in 2015, the agency would classify rideshare vehicles similar to non-luxury limousines and impose regulations to help them compete.
Besides wanting Uber and Lyft to submit to fingerprint-based background checks and annul inspections, the agency wanted to exact a minimum wait time of 7 minutes before picking up passengers. In order to not take business away from taxicab drivers. And charging a minimum $7.00 fare versus their usual fare of $5.00.
Blayn Cumblee, 27, a Lyft driver said, “Ridesharing is all about having on-demand access. A Seven minute wait time won’t work.”
Zach Jacobs, a local, wrote a letter to officials, said, “When you propose restrictions for ride sharing services such as a 7 minute wait and a minimum $7 fair (sic) [it’s] clear that you are not acting in a public safety role but rather attempting to “level the playing field” for limo/taxi special interests.”
These proposed regulations were an attempt to end the two years of legal battle with the company market leaders. And, all these regulations simple ensures that passengers are getting into a safe vehicle. The proposed regulations would formally put ridesharing companies under Public Transportation Commission purview by creating a special category known as transportation network companies, or TNCs.
Cockreem said,” We started this campaign taking the high road…We contacted the companies, we asked them to cease and desist, we told them ways to become legal and what they could do for their drivers to become legal. We were open to suggestions to amend any rules to try to accommodate them somehow and additionally our campaign was simple. First, we contacted drivers to tell them what they’re doing is illegal and here’s why.”
The Public Transportation Commission offered to purchase fingerprinting machines, totaling $12,000, so that proper background checks could be performed. BuzzFeed News reported no response from Lyft on that proposal, but Uber said, “No, we don’t think you should have to incur that in your budget… That’s not for them to say.”
Christopher Emmanuel, Director of Infrastructure and Governance Police of Florida Chamber of Commerce said, that forcing out Lyft and Uber would hurt Tampa’s ability to attract new businesses as well as millennials who don’t own a car.
But both Uber and Lyft are suing the Public Transportation Commission, and are asking the court to rule that the agency has no jurisdiction over smartphone-based business.
According to the Tampa Bay Business Journal, the Tampa Bay residents and other outsiders to the area, are uniting behind Uber and Lyft. The Tampa Bay Business Journal reported that a petition started on a Change.org, had more than 550 signatures.