After a two-and-a-half year legal battle, the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission has agreed on a regulatory framework, that legalizes the operation of ride sharing companies Uber and Lyft, while opening the doors to competitors.
The PTC agreed in a 4-3 vote to sign off on two temporary operating agreements, or TOAs, for Uber and Lyft. Outgoing PTC Chair Victor Crist strongly advocated for passage of the agreements, and officially signed off on them following the vote.
"You've got to give a little to get a lot," Crist said.
The agreements do two things. First, they effectively end ongoing lawsuits between both ride-sharing companies and the PTC. Second, they create rules that Uber and Lyft will now have to follow, most of them effective immediately.
Among the regulations:
-Uber will have to pay $250,000 to operate in Hillsborough County. Lyft will pay $125,000.
-Drivers will have to carry applicable insurance required by state law
-Vehicles cannot be older than 10 years for new drivers. Current driver vehicles can be up to 12 years old
-Vehicles will be subjected to a 21-point inspection
-Drivers cannot refuse service to disabled passengers or charge those passengers higher fares
-Passengers must be made aware of any surge pricing that is in effect. Surge pricing will not be allowed during declared states of emergency.
-Uber and Lyft will be subjected to semi-annual audits
-Any violation of these policies can result in a $2500 penalty for a first offense, and $5000 fine for a second violation
-The companies must establish a 24/7 hotline for rider concerns
-New ride share drivers will have a 21 day grace period to comply with the regulations. Existing drivers will have 42 days.
The most controversial element of discussion has always centered on background checks. The new agreement outlines the following checks drivers must comply with:
-Checks must be completed before a driver can star working
-Drivers have to pass a level one plus check which includes a multi-state/multi-jurisdiction criminal records report going back seven years. Their name will also be run through a federal court records search, state and national sex offender databases, the FBI most wanted list, the Interpol most wanted list, the DEA most wanted list, and the OPAC most wanted list.
Additionally, the Public Transportation Commission agreed to a set of rules that outline ways in which any company, including current taxi and limousine services, can offer ride-sharing services. The primary difference between the regulations listed above, and those rules, is that other companies will have to subject drivers to fingerprint background checks.
The temporary operating agreement with Uber and Lyft will remain in place through December 31, 2017. All parties involved are still hoping the Florida legislature will ultimately pass statewide laws to regulate the ride-sharing industry, which would take the place of these new localized regulations.
Find the settlement agreement available here.
"The bottom line is it's time to get past the circus: the circus of illegal operators, the circus of the parade of naysayers, the circus of lawsuits, the circus of the antics of those on this board, and do the job the public demands us to do," said Crist.
“The operating agreement approved today means that riders and drivers in Hillsborough County will have continued access to safe, reliable, affordable transportation options and flexible work opportunities through the Uber platform. We are hopeful that the state legislature will act quickly in the 2017 session to create a permanent home for ridesharing in the state of Florida," said Javi Correoso, Uber public affairs manager.