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As 2016 closes, Hillsborough’s transportation problems still mostly unsolved

Another year of our lives is about to become history, and that means another year where little tangible was accomplished in terms of addressing the transportation needs of the citizenry in Hillsborough County.

But a whole lot of people did get angry with each other over the process, anyway.

At this time a year ago, the biggest concern was: What would come out of the Hillsborough County Sheriff Department’s investigation into Go Hillsborough, the two-years-in-the-making transportation plan that called for a 30-year, half-cent sales tax increase?

“The Sherriff’s Office has completed most of the work in its investigation of the Go Hillsborough transportation plan but the results won’t be made public until mid-January,” the late and lamented Tampa Tribune wrote in December of 2015.

But it would not be released in January. Nor in February.

When it was ultimately released in March, the 1,974 page-report from the Sheriff’s office and State Attorney Mark Ober found no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing in how county staff, commissioner and private consultant Beth Leytham acted in the months leading up to the selection of Leytham’s client, Parsons Brinckerhoff, to the project. But any momentum for what was always a rather large lift had been severely thwarted, thought it didn’t mean it was DOA, at all.  The referendum always required a simple majority of commissioners to vote to put the half-cent plan on the November 2016 ballot.

However, some Tampa liberals – considered to be the base of support for the tax – balked at what they said was a plan with too heavy an emphasis on roads and a lack of transit in the city.

On April 27, after hearing more than 60 people speak during a four-hour hearing, the BOCC rejected the plan on a 4-3 vote. The proposal died after Commission Victor Crist, always considered the swing vote on the seven-member board, said he was going with his “gut feeling” in opposing the measure.

But like Freddie Krueger, Go Hillsborough wasn’t quite dead yet.

Flash forward to six weeks later, when another 67 people came before the BOCC to give their views on a slightly revised measure. In this case, the tax would have gone for 20 years instead of the original 30 year-plan. But the vote tally on the BOCC was still the same. Go Hillsborough was dead. Again.

Several months later, the board ultimately voted to approved dedicating $600 million over the next decade to fix roads, bridges, sidewalks and intersections. But not much for transit, which upset newbie Commissioner Pat Kemp.

There is no talk about a referendum going up anytime soon.

While the county went nowhere on addressing transit, the Florida Department of Transportation’s ambitious plan to add toll lanes to Interstate 275, Interstate 4 and Interstate 75, as well as overhauls to the Howard Frankland Bridge moved forward. Sort of.

Opposition to the $6 billion plan Tampa Bay Express project has come most prominently from the areas that would be directly impacted, in Tampa’s Seminole Heights, Tampa Heights and V.M. Ybor neighborhoods, and it’s been lasting and sustaining for more than a year-and-a-half.

The single biggest public hearing on the project took place on a summer night in June, when the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization held a public hearing on whether the TBX plan should be placed in its Transportation Improvement Plan for the next five years.

The 12-4 vote in favor of the plan came after eight hours of public hearing and 180 people signed up to speak, with the meeting concluding at 2:18 a.m.

Considered the biggest public works project in the history of the Tampa Bay area, the vote showed that while there are some lawmakers who strongly oppose the plan, the majority of the political and business establishment still remained solidly behind it.

In December, FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold said that he was hitting the “reset” button on the project, bringing in new staff to manage the project, “and work more intensively with the local communities.”

According to a Tampa Bay Times investigation, 80 percent of the registered voters living at properties that FDOT aims to raze for TBX are in black and Latino households.

Another ongoing story that began in 2014 and lasted through most of this year was the continuing drama playing out at the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.

At one point during the acrimonious negotiations regarding the level of severity on background checks for ridesharing drivers, Uber pulled out their “Work with us or we’ll leave” card, which carried some real force after they literally did leave the Austin, Texas market over a similar disagreement with local regulators. And in this seemingly never ending saga, the public has, for better or worse, always been on the side of Uber/Lyft, and against the perceived stuffy bureaucrats not willing to adapt to a “disruptive” new mode of transportation.

At times, it got very ugly – and that was just between PTC Chair Victor Crist and his executive director, Kyle Cockream. Neither man ended up looking great at the end of it all, with Cockream first announcing his resignation, then postponing, then resigning again.

Crist, meanwhile, did a 180 from his previous stance in support of going hard on Uber and Lyft, and seemingly overnight became their ally, much to the consternation of fellow PTC board members David Pogorilich and Frank Reddick.

By the end of the year, the beleaguered PTC was barely standing, after a vote by the Hillsborough legislative delegation may ultimately give the agency just twelve more months to find a graceful way to exit the scene, with presumably the regulatory duties being handled by the BOCC, which is the case virtually everywhere else.

And oh, yes, Uber and Lyft drivers are now legally good to pick up and drop off passengers (not that their illegal stance did much to deter them previously).

And then there was the Cross-Bay Ferry pilot project taking residents from Tampa to St. Petersburg and back, a plan spearheaded privately by former County Commissioner Ed Turanchik and publicly by St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, who, hat in hand, was able to procure $350,000 each from the local governments of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Tampa and his own City Council in St. Pete, respectively.

And while there was a lot of fanfare when the rides began, with seemingly every local official being captured on Facebook Live taking a maiden journey, WFLA- Newschannel 8 reported in mid- December that one recent day, only two people had taken the ferry, and a week before, only one passenger was on a trip from Tampa to St. Petersburg.

Mitch Perry Report for 12.20.16 – Our driverless future?

Among the 2017 priorities that the Hillsborough County Regional Transit Authority’s government liaison, Cesar Hernandez told board members on Monday, one would be to continue to push for anything that can push autonomous vehicle technology forward in the new year.

In case you’re not familiar with the whole driverless car concept, you should know that the Sunshine State, led by St. Petersburg Republican state Senator Jeff Brandes enthusiasm and advocacy, is in the vanguard of states when it comes to this new form of transportation.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature unanimously passed a bill making Florida the only state that legalized fully autonomous vehicles on public roads without a driver behind the wheel.

Meanwhile, Uber says it will continue to tests its 11 self-driving cars on the streets of San Francisco, despite the threat of legal action from the California Attorney General’s office if the company does not “immediately” remove its test vehicles from public roads.

The Attorney General’s letter, sent late Friday, ordered  Uber to apply for the appropriate permits from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles before continuing to test its cars.  Uber says its self-driving cars don’t require a DMV permit because the systems it is using are no different from current advanced driver-assistance systems that help with parking and collision avoidance, the same systems available in some luxury cars today.

As reported by USA Today, in a Friday afternoon media call, Anthony Levandowski, who runs Uber’s autonomous car programs, said the permitting process doesn’t apply to the company and that “we cannot in good conscience” comply with a regulation that the company doesn’t believe applies to it.

Does that sound familiar to anyone in Tampa?

By the way, have you spoken with an Uber or Lyft driver of late? In Tampa, because there are so many drivers flooding the market, the only way folks can make decent money working for either of these companies is to work for both. And driverless cars could make it even harder for “entrepreneurs” to make money.

But while we’re all moving so fast towards this brave new world of technology, what does the public think?

“In the glorious future, we are assured that driverless cars will save lives, reduce accidents, ease congestion, curb energy consumption and lower harmful emissions. These purported benefits contain elements of truth. But the data is nowhere near complete,” writes Jamie Lincoln Kitman in the op-ed section of Monday’s New York Times. “Even stipulating that all the claimed benefits will one day materialize, the near- and midterm picture from a public-interest perspective is not the same favorable one that industry sees. Legitimate areas of question and concern remain.”

Kidman notes that while the new technology will create some jobs, many others will be lost.

“Millions of truck and taxi drivers will be out of work, and owing to the rise of car-sharing and app-based car services, people may buy fewer vehicles, meaning automakers and their suppliers could be forced to shed jobs,” he writes.

It’s not doom and gloom, and maybe autonomous technology is going to be sensational for all of us going forward. But it’s worth your while to think of some of the possibilities that exist with this technology that may not truly denote progress in our world.

By the way, this will be my last column of 2016. I’m heading out to San Francisco myself tomorrow to celebrate Christmas with friends and family. See you in 2017.

In other news…

Stephen Bittel may be closer to becoming the next state party chairman 0f the Florida Democratic Party. Of course, he has to win his election for state committeeman in Miami-Dade County tonight against former state legislator Dwight Bullard, but there is precedence for the Democratic party establishment getting who they want in these cases.

At yesterday’s HART meeting, one board member raised strong objections to coming together with PSTA, Pinellas County’s transit agency, in an interlocal agreement.

And our state supervisors of election are hoping for the state legislature to help them with two key issues in 2017, a request made on Friday by Hillsborough County SOE Craig Latimer. 

Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission likely doomed after local delegation approves bill to kill it

The troubled Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission received a terminal diagnosis Friday after members of the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation voted unanimously for a local bill that would eliminate the agency on December 31, 2017.

After that, the County Commission would pick up its regulatory duties.

“The public has lost complete faith in the ability of this agency to regulate credibly, equitably and efficiently,” said bill sponsor James Grant said before the entire delegation vote in support of his bill.

The proposal was similar to a previous bill Grant brought to the local delegation in 2013 that sought to put a stake through the heart of the agency, but with a significant difference.

The local bill approved on Friday gives the county and the PTC a full year to contend with the transition.

“It’s not about moving fast. We want to make sure we avoid any unintended consequences,” Grant said. That was in notable contrast to the 2013 version, which would have killed the agency immediately, making it a bridge too far for other legislators to support, even with noted PTC critics like Dana Young

“I think the plan is to subcontract the regulation out to Uber, isn’t it?” asked Brandon Senator Tom Lee, eliciting the largest round of laughter of the morning.

Although meant for humorous effect, there’s no question that the addition of Uber and Lyft into the county ultimately was the beginning of the end for the PTC, which was already burdened with a toxic reputation well before the emergence of ride-sharing in Hillsborough County.

Among the previous lowlights that had saddled the PTC came in 2010, when Cesar Padilla, then the executive director of the agency, resigned after it was reported that he had been moonlighting as a security guard.

There was also the case of former County Commissioner Kevin White, was busted in 2008 for taking bribes for helping tow company operators to get permits in his role as PTC chair. White ended up serving three years at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta.

The PTC caught the attention of lawmakers like Grant and Jeff Brandes after the PTC went after Uber when it introduced its Uber Black limo service during the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. The PTC shut that effort down quickly.

Those lawmakers became incredibly irritated with the PTC and its (now former) chairman Victor Crist over the past few years, as Uber and Lyft refused to comply with PTC regulations. That led to PTC agents citing those drivers, leading to court actions and more than two years of fighting before an agreement bringing both companies into compliance occurred last month.

At Friday’s meeting, County Commission Chairman Stacy White said, “the county stands prepared to take over regulation of this industry and create a meaningful regulatory framework.”

“I think that those types of things would be able to be implemented by the county with relative ease,” White said. “We do stand prepared to create a lean, regulatory framework.”

The PTC has been funded by fees paid by the taxicab and limousine companies, not directly by taxpayers. Plant City Republican Representative Dan Raulerson asked White if the county would continue to fund their regulatory efforts in the same fashion.

“We certainly do have the ability to charge various permitting fees to offset the costs of the regulatory process,” White said.

“It seems like a good move in broadening out transportation options,” added recently elected Commissioner Pat Kemp.  

“I support it, and I realize that there are 66 other counties in the state of Florida that have figured out how to do this,” said Tea Party activist Sharon Calvert. “Let’s get it done.”

Lyft says its presence in Tampa has led to nearly $12 million in new spending in local economy

With Lyft (along with Uber) now street legal in Tampa after more than two-and-half-years of wrangling with the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission, the San Francisco-based ridesharing company is making some bold claims about its impact on the local economy.

In a report based on surveys conducted with Lyft drivers and passengers in Tampa released Monday, the company says that more than $11.9 million in new spending was generated in the local economy in 2016 because of its presence.

When asked its motivation for requesting a Lyft ride, 78 percent said it was to travel to and from restaurants or entertainment venues, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that these riders don’t want to drink and drive. A full 92 percent say are more likely to avoid driving while intoxicated because they can get a Lyft ride, and 61 percent of passengers say they use Lyft for friends and family who need assistance after drinking.

“People are going out more, staying out longer, and visiting areas of their city that weren’t easily accessible before Lyft,” said Peter Gigante, Lyft’s Head of Policy Research. “This has had a real impact on local businesses and economies, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars spent by residents and visitors. Passengers also save both time and money when they can choose a Lyft ride as opposed to the hassle and expense of driving their personal vehicle.”

Lyft also claims that their presence has led to a 51 percent increase in spending at local businesses.

The company says that it saves Tampa denizens 143,000 hours a year, which translates into $6.8 million in save travel time value, and they say that 25 percent of those rides start in underserved areas.

There is some interesting data about Lyft drivers as well, such as the fact that 48 percent “self-identity with a minority group”; 20 percent are female, 31 percent of drivers are over 50 years old, and nine percent are over 65.

Lyft did not provide any backup data regarding their survey, which they classify as their “2017 Economic Impact Study.”

While Lyft is now officially in legal compliance with local regulations in Hillsborough County, there are still not uniform rules for transportation network companies throughout Florida. Some state legislators have said they will attempt such legislation to regulate them again in the 2017 session, a sentiment they’ve made in previous years, to no success.

Mitch Perry Report for 11.10.16 — The ‘What do we now?’ moment for the president-elect

As Donald Trump publicly laid low and dealt with officials about how the transition of his administration will begin, I couldn’t help but recall that often-referred-to famous final scene from the 1972 Michael Ritchie film, “The Candidate” starring Robert Redford.

Bill McKay, the novice (played by Redford) who has just won an improbable victory for the U.S. Senate, turns dazedly to his campaign manager and asks, “What do we do now?”

What will the 45th POTUS do? No doubt the Affordable Care Act will be repealed, but what takes its place? Since policy was never emphasized during this campaign, I’m not sure too many of us (especially those of us on the ACA) are aware what that will be, presumably conceived by House and Senate leaders.

Border security will no doubt be emphasized with the building of a wall along the Mexican border. Trump also has talked about tripling the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and seeks to create a “special deportation task force”. Although Kellyanne Conway says that task force will first focus on “the most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants,” Trump has made clear any undocumented migrants could be affected.

He has talked tough when it comes to guns and criminal justice reform. That could include turning back the Obama administration’s efforts to address mass incarceration. And what about the bipartisan effort in Capitol Hill on criminal justice reform? Again, details are needed.

And what about foreign policy, specifically Syria, the No. 1 burning problem in the world. Going back to when I first encountered the 15 (at the time) Republicans running for president who met in Nashua, New Hampshire in 2015, the overwhelming criticism was about Barack Obama‘s foreign policy. Hearing their criticism, I wondered, frankly, how would they handle some of the world’s most vexing problems? Does anyone really know the agenda from the man who said he “knows more than the generals” about combating ISIS, for example. “Take their oil” and “bombing the sh*t out of them” is going to have to be fleshed out a little more, one would think.

Trump has said contradictory things about NATO. That may be predicated on the first Trump-Vladimir Putin sit-down. After months of speculation about what type of relationship they might have, we’ll find out soon enough what Trump is willing to allow Putin to get away with — which may not bother too many Americans, but will freak out some of our allies overseas.

There’s roughly 100 days left before the president-elect becomes the president. And hopefully we’ll have a clearer idea of what lies ahead of us over the next four years.

In other news …

Uber and Lyft are finally street legal in Hillsborough County, though of course, not without controversy.

The PTC’s executive director, chairman and a board member with the agency all announced their departure on Wednesday.

The one bright spot for Hillsborough Democrats was Andrew Warren’s narrow victory as state attorney.

Marco Rubio defined Donald Trump’s upset victory as a “rejection of business-as-usual” in D.C. politics.

Tampa City Council members are pleased the charter amendment that will allow them to request internal audits was overwhelmingly approved by the voters.

Hillsborough County PTC approves temporary agreement to allow Uber and Lyft to operate legally

After more than two and a half years of operating in violation of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Agency, ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft are now legal to operate in the county — for at least another 13 months.

The board voted 4-3 Wednesday to approve two new temporary operating agreements (TOAs) negotiated by outgoing PTC Chairman Victor Crist and officials with the two companies. It comes after at-times agonizing debates on the commission that led to a flood of bad blood between the companies and the PTC, acrimony this most recent vote did not completely change.

Joining Crist in supporting the proposal were Plant City Commissioner Nate Kilton, Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco, and County Commissioner Ken Hagan.

Temple Terrace Councilman David Pogolorich, County Commissioner Al Higginbotham, and Tampa City Councilman Frank Reddick dissented.

“Today’s agreement on a temporary operating agreement means that riders and drivers have continued access to safe, reliable affordable rides and flexible work opportunities through the Uber platform in Hillsborough County,” said Uber spokesman Colin Tooze.

The new deal mandates that Uber and Lyft drivers undergo a Level I background check “with teeth,” which encompasses a stateside criminal records search along with a search of federal court records, and state and national sex offender databases for seven years.

That’s different than the Level II background checks other PTC commissioners wanted — and which Uber and Lyft said was a deal breaker which would compel them to leave the market if approved.

Higginbotham opposed the new temporary agreement because he said state law requires the PTC to fingerprint drivers.

The agreements will now be folded into previously existing litigation involving both companies with the 2nd District Court of Appeal that will dissolve those lawsuits. Uber and Lyft challenged the PTC’s authority to impose rules, as did West Coast Transportation Services, a limousine company in Tampa that says they want to get into the ridesharing agreement, and also challenge the PTC’s authority.

Immediately after the PTC’s vote effectively legalizing Uber and Lyft, they passed proposed “emergency rules” that in some ways contradict the new temporary agreement, but will allow other ridesharing companies (not named Uber or Lyft) to have the ability to operate in Hillsborough County.

That vote alienated officials with Uber and Lyft.

“You’ve had CEOs in this community boasting of the fact that they have colluded with incumbent interests to write these rules to limit competition,” Tooze said.

“We are disappointed that separate rules adopted by the PTC would stifle modern options like ridesharing, and we will immediately appeal the passage of these regulations,” added Chelsea Harrison, a spokesperson for Lyft.

Both Uber and Lyft say they look forward to working with the Florida Legislature in the upcoming session to enact uniform statewide rules for ridesharing, which still don’t exist.

During the public hearing portion of the meeting, Uber and Lyft drivers once again came out to speak in support of the PTC creating a legal framework for the companies to operate in the county, while critics said the temporary agreements with Uber and Lyft were unfair, since they shut out other startup ridesharing companies. “We need industrywide rules and industrywide TOAs, not for two corporate monopolies, at the expense of the traveling public,” said Seth Mills, an attorney representing taxicab and limousines in Tampa.

“What we did today was history,” said an exultant Crist at one point in the meeting, his last after leading the agency for nearly six years. He will be succeeded by Higginbotham.


Mitch Perry Report for 11.8.16 — Getting the results before the polls close

The last presidential contest I really didn’t pay that much attention to was back in 1980, but I do remember this: I was in high school, and I had the TV on but the sound down when Jimmy Carter came out at around 6:15 PST to announce he was conceding the election. It was pretty early in the evening, but it was obvious Carter wasn’t going to catch up to Ronald Reagan that night.

Although Carter wanted to get the misery over with, his early concession speech angered people in California on the West Coast, where there were still hours before the polls closed. Every election since then (except for those that went into overtime), have not been declared by the networks and the Associated Press until 11 p.m. Eastern, when all the polls are closed.

That is supposed to change tonight.

As reported by POLITICO on Monday, “Slate and Vice News have partnered with Votecastr, a company helmed by Obama and Bush campaign veterans, to provide real-time projections of how the candidates are faring in each state throughout the day. They expect to begin posting projections at 8 a.m. Eastern time on Election Day — a dramatic departure from current practice, where representatives from a consortium of news organizations (The Associated Press, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, and NBC News) huddle in a quarantine room without cell phones, poring over the earliest exit poll data but declining to release anything that points to an election result until all the polls have closed.”

POLITICO also will be working with Morning Consult to conduct a survey of voters after they have cast ballots. Voters will complete the interviews over the internet, beginning one hour after the polls open in their state. Respondents will be asked whether they have voted, and how they voted: either using early voting, by mail or on Election Day in person. POLITICO and Morning Consult will report on some of the results during the day.

I don’t know what any of this means, but let’s face it: in recent elections, people sit around most of the day on Election Day, with nothing to do with polls being meaningless (“the only poll that matters is on Election Day”) but no returns to review until the early evening.

There is some of that infamous exit poll research the networks will start reporting on after 5 p.m. but we all learned after 2004 not to take them too seriously, right, President Kerry?

Personally, I’ll be interested in some House races in Hillsborough County which could go either way — in House Districts 59, 60, and 63.

Have a great day.

In other news …

HART CFO Jeff Seward is going to the International Climate Change Conference in the U.K. next spring, the first representative from a North American transit agency to be invited to the annual event.

On the eve of a Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission meeting on a temporary agreement with Uber and Lyft, a limousine company based in Tampa says they want to become a ridesharing company as well, and is going to court to challenge the agency.

Marco Rubio made a last-day campaign appearance in Brandon yesterday, where he said he thinks the increase in Latino voters in the early vote bodes well for his chances tonight.

Eric Seidel is thinking he can peel off some wayward Democrats in his bid to defeat Pat Frank in the Hillsborough County Clerk of the Courts race tonight.

In a Vice News interview last night, Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the Bernie Sanders campaign made her into a “bogeyman” for her role at the DNC.

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

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.

Uber, Google develop app for Election Day rides

your-voting-place-uberElection Day is only days away, and Uber and Google have teamed up to help voters cast ballots.

As part of its ongoing campaign to boost the turnout among Uber users, the San Francisco-based ridesharing service has worked with Google on a special in-app feature available Nov. 8 that will help locate polling locations  — and quickly request a ride with a simple tap on the smartphone.

On Election Day, Uber users will see a reminder to get out and vote; the unique feature will let them enter the address where they are registered, helping to locate the appropriate polling sites by hitting the “Find Your Polling Place” button before requesting a ride.

uber-vote-nov-8New Uber users riding for the first time can enter the code VOTETODAY for $20 off. Unlike other Uber promotions, trips will be subject to standard charges, with no free or discounted rides for existing users on Election Day.

According to the Uber blog: “Given the important decision people around the country will make on Nov. 8, we wanted to make getting to and from your polling place easier than ever.”

Hungry? Call Uber

Uber will officially expand the UberEATS Tampa Bay app to include St. Petersburg beginning at 11 a.m Wednesday.

In honor of this expansion, free delivery will be offered to those in the coverage area for a limited time. The coverage area for this expansion currently includes areas east of 71st Street North/Belcher Road.

Delivery is available from 6 a.m. to 3 a.m., seven days a week. If the restaurant is shown as open and serving on the UberEATS app during that time, customers will be able to place an order.

With the UberEATS app, St. Petersburg customers have access to menus of more than 50 restaurants, including Bodega, Buya St. Petersburg, Central Melt, Chi-Town Beefs and Dogs, Fresh Kitchen, Hawkers Asian Street Fare, La V, Noble Crust, Skyway Jack’s St. Petersburg, Taco Bus St. Petersburg, the Queens Head Eurobar, Thirsty First, Urban Brew & BBQ, Urban Comfort, Urban Creamery, and Urban Deli and Drafts.  To see participating restaurants, check the UberEATS app in St. Petersburg.

Uber, headquartered in San Francisco, is best know for its transportation service. Users with smartphones can submit a request for a ride using the Uber app. The application notifies the nearest Uber driver, who then comes to pick up the passenger. The app calculates the fee and automatically transfers the payment to the driver.

More recently, Uber has expanded its services to include meal and beer delivery in some markets. Uber is in 518 cities around the world.

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