Regarding “Put end to PTC regulatory abuse” (Our Views, March 28):
Florida Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. James Grant are pushing legislation to require Hillsborough County residents to give up valuable consumer protections and accessibility to affordable rides for hire. Special interests would gain access to consumers and increased profits, at the expense of the riding public. Their legislation is an attempt to eliminate the limousine/taxicab separation and eliminate safeguards that are currently in place to protect consumers.
Hillsborough County makes a distinction between taxicabs and limousines to provide two public services. Limousines are considered a luxury option to the consumer, and companies operating them have less stringent rules concerning hours of operation and geographic boundaries. Taxicab companies are required to offer service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They must offer their services throughout the county and at a posted reliable rate. The Public Transportation Commission initiated this distinction as a safeguard to ensure the consumer has access to a clean, safe and contemporary mode of transportation regardless of the area of town, the time or day.
The legislation wants limousines to be treated like taxicabs, with negotiable fees. On the surface it seems like a win for the consumer. However, this scenario is only a win for special interests. Although some rates may be low, when demand goes up the fares will increase as well. A recent Forbes article reports a surge in pricing to as much as nine times a ride’s base fare at certain times.
The PTC today is not the same PTC of yesterday. There is a new board, new director, new staff, new guidelines, rules and policies. Accordingly, the PTC has significantly improved day-to-day business operations, transparency, accountability and continues protecting consumers. The county or any other agency could not easily absorb the responsibility of the PTC. County and city leaders have stated they do not want the responsibility of running the services currently provided. In fact, the state created this free standing authority to reduce duplication and bureaucracy while providing necessary consumer protection.
Additionally, while the PTC is exploring more technology-driven initiatives, a number of taxicab companies in Hillsborough County already offer smart phone apps. These apps give users the ability to plan both immediate and scheduled rides for long and short distances at a competitive price.
Taking the decision-making process from the local people and putting it in Tallahassee is not the answer. Bigger government is not better government.
The writer, a Hillsborough County comissioner, chairs the Public Transportation Commission.