Thursday, August 14, 2014

Uber and Lyft not impressed by PTC's half-way measures

Posted By on Thu, Aug 14, 2014 at 7:26 PM

click to enlarge uber_copy.jpg
(UPDATE) Is that all there is?

That appears to be the sentiment of ride-sharing behemoths Uber and Lyft after the Hillsborough County Public Transportation proposed two changes to regulations that critics of the agency have been calling on for years. 

One is on the long derided minimum fare rate (for which the PTC is currently being sued about). On Wednesday the commission proposed reducing that rate from $60 to $30. And it would reduce the minimum time required to use non-taxi passenger cars in Tampa to half-hour vs. the current hour long rate.

But neither company is biting.

"Imposing minimum fares and driving times does nothing but limit access to safe, reliable and affordable rides," wrote Uber spokesperson Taylor Bennett to CL via email. "We look forward to continuing to work with the PTC to develop a regulatory framework that embraces consumer choice and opportunity."

"The ordinance would make it impossible for Lyft's peer-to-peer model to operate in Tampa," says Lyft spokesperson Paige Thelan. "Requiring a minimum trip cost and length has nothing to do with benefitting consumers, increasing public safety or expanding transportation options. Instead, it removes the flexibility, affordability, and convenience that has attracted both drivers and passengers to ridesharing. We urge the PTC to look to other Florida cities, like Miami and Miami Beach, who have recognized that regulations must be revisited in order to preserve access to Lyft's community-powered transportation. We look forward to working collaboratively with the PTC on commonsense regulations that support innovation and consumer choice for the people of Tampa."

Both UberX and Lyft have been operating outside the purview of the PTC since April, offering rides at rates lower than the established cab companies in Hillsborough County. PTC executive director Kyle Cockream has expressed frustration with the companies for not working within the system - but that same scenario has played out across the country this summer.

The issues with the minimum fare don't even really apply to UberX, but Uber Black. That's the town car service that operates in New York City and attempted to offer service in Tampa during the Republican National Convention in 2012 (some cab executives in Tampa contend that they did operate during that time). 

During this past legislative session, local Bay area Republican lawmakers Jeff Brandes and Jamie Grant attempted to pass legislation to eliminate such required mandates that are employed not just in Tampa but Orlando and Miami as well. At one point they even tried to eliminate the PTC altogether (it's the only agency of its type in Florida) to no avail.

But when Lyft and UberX began operating in April, talk about reducing the minimum fare went by the wayside for those companies, as they offer fares at fares lower than what the established cab companies charge.  

Meanwhile, the National League of Cities today announced the formation of a network composed of business, policy leaders and city officials to identify the regulatory challenges posed by the disruptive technologies that power the sharing economy like Uber and Lyft.

“Cities across the country have been struggling to respond to the rapid emergence of the Sharing Economy,” said Clarence Anthony, National League of Cities executive director. He continued, “Cities are looking for ways to update and improve their current regulatory framework to ensure that regulations like safety and health protect residents, while at the same time supporting the growth of new businesses. It is imperative for cities to learn how this industry operates and discover ways to engage in order to support these new modes of doing business and to create jobs.”

“Our goal is to provide information that helps elected officials bring the sharing economy to their constituents,” said Emily Castor, Director of Community Relations at Lyft, and Chair of the Sharing Economy Advisory Network. Castor continued, “The sharing economy is based on local interactions between neighbors so it makes sense to build a strong partnership with local leaders in those communities. Helping to create consistent regulations across all markets will make it easier for communities to take advantage of all the new benefits that the sharing economy provides.”

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