I am writing to you concerning an editorial published May 16, “Searching for common ground for taxi services” (Our Views). It omits several extremely important points on the subject matter.
Regardless of where taxi and chauffeured vehicle registrations reside, i.e. within Hillsborough County government or under the purview of an agency like the Public Transportation Commission, the ride-sharing services your editorial mentions need to operate within those regulations. Neither Uber nor Lyft cover vehicles, drivers or passengers with commercial vehicle insurance as required by state law. Judging from their actions around the U.S., they don’t want to, either. What they want is to make money booking transportation service on their smartphone apps and have service performed by private drivers using private cars with private vehicle insurance. Transporting the public is a business — it requires commercial vehicle insurance.
Your editorial also makes it seem like Tampa is the only place in the U.S. with regulations on taxis and chauffeured vehicles. Regulations like those in Hillsborough exist in some form in thousands of municipal and county jurisdictions around the U.S. specifically so consumers are provided with a variety of safe and consistent transportation services.
Finally, and most importantly, your editorial fails to mention the many civil lawsuits filed against Uber and the many jurisdictions like Tampa that have questioned and even stopped their operations completely because they openly violate regulations.
Uber has several serious accidents and a fatality claim against it where its so-called “insurance” has been found to be totally illegal for the business they are in. Uber also has several class-action suits pending against it for its driver compensation practices.
Both companies have had their insurance policies examined and debunked by the insurance commissioners of several states, and written advisories have been issued that this insurance does not adequately cover consumers in the event of a vehicle accident.
Let’s cut out the politics, the lobbying and PR spin. If Uber and Lyft really wanted to operate legally in Hillsborough County, there is only one rule that would need to be changed among the entire body of regulations of the Public Transportation Commission — the $50 minimum fare rule your editorial mentions in passing. Eliminating the $50 minimum sedan rate rule would have no impact on public safety as long as these ride-sharing companies adhere to the rest of needed regulations of the PTC. There is much more to providing safe transportation to the public 24 hours a day than providing low rates and a snappy smartphone reservation app.
To protect the public, fair regulations must be in place regardless of what bureaucracy they fall under. These regulations were enacted specifically to weed out bad transportation providers who hire dangerous drivers, use substandard vehicles and lack proper insurance. The enforcement of these regulations needs to be performed consistently, ethically and well above the political fray — permanently.
Kenneth J. Lucci
The writer is president/CEO of FLEXSedans.