A State Representative representing Tampa is calling for an internal investigation into the Hillsborough Co. Public Transportation Commission (PTC) and for the commission to dissolve all together.
“It became very clear that what you had is a regulator, that is working or appears to be working in concert with a regulated entity,” said Rep. Dana Young, “an entity that they regulate, for the specific purpose of keeping out competitors.”
Rep. Young contacted the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement (FDLE) on Monday, asking them to launch an investigation into “questionable practices.”
This comes after the Tampa Bay Times discovered internal emails from the TPC where staff reportedly discussed sting operations, using taxi drivers to pose as customers to lure Uber and Lyft drivers to areas where PTC officers were waiting to fine them.
“It’s not unusual for the agency to conduct sting operations,” said Victor Crist, chairman of the PTC board, “what was unusual and frankly inappropriate was to use a competitive industries drivers and staff.”
He says that he along with attorneys have sifted through hundreds of internal staff emails.
He now hopes the board members will ask for their own, internal investigation into the commission.
“Here I am going out as the chairman of this board,” he said, “and I’m finding out, you know, what’s going on among the staff has been kept from us as policy makers, it’s embarrassing.”
Rep. Young hopes the investigation will lead to further changes in the PTC.
“I think it’s time to find another agency that can handle these regulatory issues without jumping into bed with the companies that they're regulating,” she said.
Crist also thinks the commission should be dissolved.
“Yes, I'm chairman of the Public Transportation Commission,” he said, “and I’m saying that this agency in its current form should be dissolved.”
Instead, he thinks the commission should be governed by each individual county, with enforcement similar to how code enforcement officers handle calls, all overseen by county commissioners.
Javi Correoso, the spokesperson for Uber in Florida issued the following statement about the matter:
"If one thing has become clear in the past week, it's that the PTC has consistently colluded with entrenched special interests at the expense of people who rely on ridesharing."
Chelsea Harrison, the Senior Policy Communications Manager for Lyft issued also issued a statement:
"The emails prove what we've known all along - there's a concerted effort by some at the PTC to use public funds to protect entrenched interests at the expense of Tampa residents. Despite the taxi industry's best attempts to stack the deck in their favor, more and more people every week choose Lyft as a safe, affordable way to get around the Tampa Bay Area. We are confident we will find a way forward that keeps the reliable rides and economic opportunity Lyft provides available for people in Tampa."