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Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014

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Jeff Brandes: Uber, other hired-car services are “the future of transportation”


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Sen. Jeff Brandes took to the Internet to extol Uber and other hired car services – one week after his failed effort to open up the Florida market to them.

Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, appeared on “The Bottom Line,” a Web-based, public-affairs interview series from the Florida Chamber of Commerce. His 5-minute interview was posted Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, over the years, there have been onerous regulations put on at the local level that prohibits these technologies from entering the market,” he said, mentioning Tampa’s required $50 minimum for a chauffeured ride.

“We shouldn’t be setting minimum prices,” Brandes said. “We should let the free market determine how people want to choose their transit options. It is the future of transportation.”

His amendment to the Senate’s omnibus transportation bill last week drew several irate speakers to the stand – even after he assured the crowd he was withdrawing the language.

The wording was friendly to app-based hired-car services like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. In particular, Uber operates in Jacksonville but wants to be in Miami, Tampa or Orlando, where it can’t break in.

“Being out in front of the taxi industry, putting a bull’s-eye on our back, has not been easy,” Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick told Bloomberg Businessweek earlier this year.

The start-ups say local authorities are captured by the taxi and limo lobby and are confounding their business model with 20th-century regulations.

The established car services say Uber and others should play by the same rules as everybody else.

Brandes disagrees.

“Business travelers get off a plane, they step foot in Florida airports, they open up their smartphones to the Uber app, press a button and they say, ‘no cars available,’” he said.

“If I was a business traveler, I would go, ‘what kind of backwater doesn’t have Uber or these other applications?’” Brandes added. “Let’s bring Florida into the 21st century.”

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