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Ride share tickets ending; County proposes bill

Posted: 5:46 PM, Sep 09, 2015
Updated: 2015-09-09 21:46:30Z

The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission making some significant strides in its 18-month long dispute with ride share services Uber and Lyft.

Speaker after speaker came before the Hillsborough County's Public Transportation Commission Wednesday to talk about ride-sharing from business owners and riders, to drivers.

"It works wonderfully.  Don't get in the way if you can possibly avoid it," said Tampa business owner and Uber rider George Hamilton.

 "It's extra income for me and my daughter.  I was able to get us off of food stamps," a female Uber driver said.

"Please think about riders like myself that depend on public transportation and Uber to make it, and I think they can co-exist.  It's just a matter of working it out," said a male Uber rider.

Some even point to almost 500 fewer DUIs since Uber started operating in Tampa.  Those are all reasons dozens told the PTC why they think ride-sharing is needed.  The only concerns about "transportation network companies," came from two cab company representatives, who insist they welcome the competition, but just want fairness.

"We welcome TNCs and we think the board is doing the right thing to try and bring TNCs into a regulatory framework," said Seth Mills with the Tampa Taxi Coalition.

Despite ongoing appeals and lawsuits, the PTC says it is committed to finding some way to make everyone happy.  Wednesday, commissioners agreed to stop writing tickets to ride share drivers, and they voted unanimously to support and find a sponsor for state and local legislation, writing basic rules of the road to legalize ride share companies.

The Public Transportation Commission says the goal of this proposed legislation is simple.  Every time you request an Uber ride on the app, and someone comes to pick you up, that  you can expect the same level of safety from the vehicle and driver on every ride.  That would include insurance coverage requirements, a vehicle inspection, and background checks with fingerprinting.  Vehicles used for ride sharing could also not be more than 10  years old.

"In Hillsborough County, we have professionalized this service to insure the highest standards in safety, and we're here today to make sure that continues," said Victor Crist of the Hillsborough Co. Public Transportation Commission.

The PTC says Uber already follows similar laws in at least six other major cities.  But not everyone is convinced the proposed rules are the right thing.

"I have a strong feeling that the more regulation, the more cost and everything else, you'll make it more difficult for these riders.  These riders love this service," said Greg Morgan, real estate broker and Uber driver.

At least for now, Uber and Lyft can keep giving rides, without any extra hurdles.

The proposed regulations will still have to garner a sponsor and be approved by the Florida legislature.  The PTC is planning to put up the full proposed bill on its website: http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/index.aspx?nid=2595