It’s a popular way for some people to get around Tampa Bay. But authorities say drivers for ride-sharing companies like Lyft and Uber are operating outside the law.
Over the weekend, Hillsborough County Transportation Commission officers began ticketing the drivers $800 each.
The ticketing wasn’t without warning. The Hillsborough Transportation Commission took out full-page ads in two local newspapers telling riders their safety may be at stake if they use the companies.
The cheap and easy services are gaining traction on social media and on our streets.
But while the companies advertise they’re completely insured, the transportation commission doesn’t agree.
“The more miles you drive, sooner or later you’re going to get into a crash,” said Hillsborough County Transportation Director Kyle Cockream.
One Lyft driver and three Uber drivers got tickets over the weekend for a variety of offenses, including improper insurance and improper licensing.
The tickets caught potential customers by surprise.
"If I’m in my vehicle, I’m covered, I’m insured,” said Ebony Black. “But if I need a ride and I get in your vehicle and if anything happens to me, it’s on me. That’s not ethical."
The head of the transportation commission says the companies’ background checks aren't up to par with those required of taxi drivers.
In a statement issued Monday, Paige Thelen, with Lyft, said they are willing to work with city leaders to find a path forward.
"We have received reports of citations among ridesharing drivers in Tampa. In all cases, we have responded immediately to provide support and we are also covering the cost of the citations and any necessary legal assistance. We will always support the Lyft community and stand behind our drivers as we work through these challenges. Lyft's peer-to-peer business model does not fall into the existing regulations for taxis and for hire vehicles. We are happy to work together with city leaders to discuss our unique model and find a path forward for ridesharing that prioritizes public safety and consumer choice. The Tampa community has embraced Lyft as an affordable, convenient, and fun new way of getting around the city, and we believe the city will not want to take that service away from residents."
Rachel Holt, Uber East Coast's regional general manager, said the company stands by its drivers who received citations.
"Since arriving in Tampa, we’ve received an overwhelming demand for services like Uber from both riders and drivers – if one our partners receives a citation, we will stand by them and reimburse any costs," Holt said in a statement. "That said, it’s clear the (Hillsborough Transportation Commission) only intends to protect taxi special interests instead of listening to Tampa Bay residents asking for more choice and innovation in transportation."