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Settlement could end local ride sharing battles

Posted at 3:10 PM, May 11, 2016
A two-year war between Hillsborough County’s Public Transportation Commission and ride share companies Uber and Lyft could be a step closer to ending.
 
All three parties started negotiations Wednesday for a settlement.
 
If you’ve used the apps, you know how simple and convenient it can be to get a ride anywhere you need to go. Now it’s down to outlining exactly how to regulate these companies to make sure the car you’re in, and the driver you’re with, are safe.
 
People who use and work for Uber are passionate about ride sharing.
 
After two years of back and forth negotiations and lawsuits, the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission now has a proposal to regulate the company and fellow ride sharing company Lyft.
 
“We’ve got a comprehensive deal with more in it than anywhere else in the country,” Public Transportation Commission Chair Victor Crist said.
 
“Recently in Miami-Dade County, Broward County, Palm Beach, City of Tallahassee, Gainesville and over 30 states nationwide, this is the exact type of framework we’re talking about,” said Stephanie Smith, Uber technologies senior public policy manager.
 
That framework would include specific insurance requirements for ride sharing drivers to protect the vehicle and passengers.
 
Drivers would have to pass “level one plus” background checks and not be a registered sex offender. Vehicles would have to be less than 12 years old and pass a 22-point inspection.
 
Uber and Lyft would also have to pay an annual fee to work in the county. It’s now down to ironing out the details on each measure.
 
Ultimately, the commission says it boils down to one thing: That when you request an Uber or Lyft, that you can feel safe regardless of who is behind the wheel.
 
“I would have liked to have seen a deal solidly closed today, so that tomorrow we could say to the public, ‘The standards have been raised and you’re a whole lot safer,’” Crist said. “Unfortunately that didn’t happen today.”
 
Crist is confident it will happen soon as pressure builds to settle before the next scheduled hearing June 22. But the plan still faces big opposition from taxi and limo companies, which have even pleaded for Crist to resign.
 
He said he won’t be intimidated and is committed to working this out.
 
PTC director Kyle Cockream also shared the following statements:

“Progress continued today in the discussion of a possible settlement agreement with Uber and Lyft. We continue to be optimistic about the prospect of reaching an agreement.

“Since attendees of the meeting were discussing a potential settlement to pending litigation, we cannot report in detail what was discussed.

“Our next steps will be to incorporate the comments from the meeting as we continue to work toward a settlement agreement that is agreeable to all parties involved.”

People in the Tampa Bay Area who often use ride-sharing companies say the online app features - including the one that shows who the driver is along with a picture - already make them feel even safer than being in a taxi.

Above all though, fans of Uber and Lyft tell ABC Action News they prefer the convenience and lower-costs.

While all the parties continued their negotiations, ABC Action News put Uber and a taxi to the test on Wednesday, requesting service from both companies at the exact same time and place for the same service. The results were very different. You can see the results by clicking HERE.