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Limousine company sues Hillsborough PTC, says they want to be ridesharing company

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

With the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission poised to perhaps finally approve new rules that would legalize the use of ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft, now a local limousine company has filed suit against the local agency.

West Coast Transportation Services filed a lawsuit on Friday challenging whether the PTC has the authority to regulate transportation network companies (TNC’s), another term for ridesharing companies.

In the suit, filed in the 13th judicial circuit in Hillsborough County, West Coast Transportation says they are now seeking to provide transportation services as a transportation network company (TNC), but while they have been given written authority by the PTC, they have not been granted legal authority to do so.

The fact of the matter is that as things stand today, no ridesharing companies have the legal authority to operate in Hillsborough County. That hasn’t stopped Uber and Lyft from doing so since they entered the market in April of 2014. Over the past month, outgoing PTC Chairman Victor Crist has worked with Uber on a set of proposed new rules which the company says they could adhere to, which could mean they would finally be operating legally in the county. Those new rules do NOT include a Level II background check, which would include drivers being fingerprinted. Officials with Uber and Lyft have said that is a deal breaker. Uber did leave the Austin, Texas market earlier this year when that local government mandated such checks.

“West Coast is in doubt as to whether the PTC has regulatory authority over its fleet and transportation network company operations,” reads the lawsuit. “The PTC has nonetheless repeatedly asserted it has such regulatory authority, yet in some cases has agreed not to issue citations to the TNCs in conformance with the Special Act and its associated rules (the ‘PTC Rules’).”

Uber and Lyft have been involved with their own lawsuits against the PTC, arguing that the citations issued against their drivers were created for the cab/limo industry, and shouldn’t apply to them.

West Coast Transportation Services or West Coast Shuttle is owned by Lou Minardi, who also owns Yellow Cab Company of Tampa, one of the leading critics of Uber and Lyft’s operations in Hillsborough County.

The lawsuit was filed by attorney Seth Mills, a regular visitor to PTC meetings who has inveighed against the ridesharing companies as well. He was not immediately available for comment.

The PTC is poised to vote on Crist’s proposed new rules for ridesharing on Wednesday.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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