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Front Page » Top Stories » UberX OK X’d out

UberX OK X’d out

Written by on April 22, 2015

The Miami-Dade County Commission deferred voting Tuesday on an ordinance that would have legalized peer-to-peer transportation services that are based on smartphone apps.

The ordinance would have legalized these services and would have established rules under which these companies and their drivers could operate in the county. Among the regulations the ordinance would have set is that companies like UberX and Lyft would have to obtain a license from Miami-Dade government in order to operate in the county.

Transportation providers like UberX and Lyft have been operating in Miami-Dade illegally for months.

The issue has prompted varying responses from the community for months.

While some have embraced these transportation options, the taxi industry has said that these companies have an unfair competitive advantage over taxicab drivers.

Both of these sentiments were evident at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Half of your visitors are international,” William D. Talbert III, CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, told commissioners.

“These are the choices people have around the world,” he said, referring to the app-based transportation companies like UberX. “We need to be competitive. We need to give our customers options.”

Taxicab drivers and other taxi industry stakeholders also turned out at the meeting to voice their concerns.

“I know that Uber and Lyft is illegal but to regulate them, it should be a different way. Not this [ordinance],” Mercedes Gonzalez told commissioners. “The taxi industry, we have medallions, we have property rights. We bought them, it was not given for free. I worked for 50 years to have what I have…. This will kill the taxi industry.”

To operate a cab in Miami-Dade, a driver or a company must purchase a medallion from the county. Generally, the medallions are bought by companies, which then make a lease agreement with a driver who is essentially renting the cab for a fee. There are 2,121 taxis that operate in the county and 43 taxi companies.

The industry has raised issue with the peer-to-peer transportation companies, saying that UberX and Lyft get to set their own fees unlike cab drivers, whose fees are set by the county.

Raymond Francois is an administrator of the New Vision Drivers of Florida, which he said represents taxicab drivers as well as UberX and Lyft drivers.

Mr. Francois has told Miami Today that a trip from South Beach to Miami International Airport could cost about $14 on UberX or Lyft, much lower than the about $32 a taxicab would charge for the same trip.

“The proposer [of the ordinance] didn’t provide anything to regulate the fare,” Mr. Francois told commissioners Tuesday. “If this proposal is passed, can you please tell me how the taxi industry and the limos will survive?… I would like to see the transportation network to be legalized but I don’t want to see them given a blank check to do what they want.”

The ordinance that was deferred didn’t outline exact amounts for fees that peer-to-peer transportation companies are to charge for trips. Among other things, the ordinance would have required these companies to obtain a license from county government and allowed for county staff to deny granting a license if a company didn’t meet various conditions. In addition, the ordinance would have established requirements drivers would have to meet, and called for the peer-to-peer transportation companies to do background checks on their drivers.

County Commissioner Esteban L. Bovo Jr. sponsored the ordinance but deferred it to another meeting.

“I understand the anxiety,” he said shortly before he moved to defer the item.

The ordinance was up for first reading, which means that any county commission approval wouldn’t have been final. Despite the deferral on Tuesday, the ordinance is still headed for a public hearing in front of a county  commission committee on June 10.