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Jeff Vinik, Jeff Brandes discuss future of Tampa Bay transportation at HART summit

In the future of transportation in Hillsborough County, buses and rail may be taking a back seat to autonomous vehicles and other cutting-edge technologies.

Although the Hillsborough Area Transit Authority (HART) primarily offers bus service, buses weren’t the focus of attention at the “State of Transit” event Tuesday at CAMLS in downtown Tampa.

Nor should they have been, as the theme of the day was “Beyond the Bus.”

No speaker in the hour-plus session was more visionary on transportation’s future in the Bay area than St. Petersburg GOP state Sen. Jeff Brandes. He talked enthusiastically about the growth of ride-sharing and the eventual employment of autonomous vehicles in the region.

Brandes lightly referenced issues that the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission has had in dealing with Uber and Lyft, but said that those companies are “revolutionizing” transportation.

“The paradigm of transit is changing,” Brandes told the crowd. “We have to think of transit as an organism.”

The future could include riding in a driverless Uber or Lyft car at a cost of 40 or 50 cents a mile, he added.

“That’s cheaper than I’ve ever been able to provide human transportation in the history of time,” Brandes gushed.

Such a future would be bigger than the smartphone, he said, and would radically change our cities. The future of transit will be based on four things: electric, autonomous, on-demand and shared.

“As a policymaker and as somebody who watches the budget, I can tell you thinking about autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles coming online at the same time is really interesting, but electric vehicles create their own set of challenges,” he said.

It would require rethinking the current model of how government funds transportation, he said, bringing up the fact that the importance of the gas tax could be affected since electric vehicles don’t use gas.

HART board chair and Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez began his remarks by saying robust transportation would provide freedom of choice for the citizenry. He extolled that freedom of transit choices he said he recently experienced while visiting Philadelphia.

“We want to make sure that people have that same choice, and that same freedom,” Suarez said about the Hillsborough region. Such a possibility means that Hillsborough County and the Legislature needed to kick in more funds to provide more service.

“Public dollars has always been a big part of public transit, in every part of the country, not just here,” Suarez emphasized. Without that investment, he said, “we cannot provide the kind of freedom that people want.”

In his short but impactful time on the scene in Tampa, Channelside developer and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has become one of the city’s biggest ambassadors, while he works to recruit national companies to reside in the $2 billion planned development between his Strategic Property Partners and Cascade Investments.

Vinik said he was agnostic about what mode of transportation should be added to the area, but emphasized it will be the most important element in determining where Tampa and Hillsborough County will be as a community 10 to 20 years from now.

“Obviously, there have been some failed referendums over the last several years in this area,” Vinik said. “The good news is that we’re discussing transportation.”

Vinik added he’s excited about the upcoming 18-24 month “premium transit” study HART is about to conduct, as well as a 12- to 18-month study on the expansion of the Tampa Streetcar.

HART CEO Katherine Eagan (pictured above) kicked off her 15-minute presentation by generating guffaws as she described the Tampa Streetcar as “the nation’s smallest light-rail system.”

Upon hearing some groans when referring to the controversial Tampa Bay Express project, Eagan said, “You don’t have to like it to acknowledge how we’re talking about transportation.”

She also admitted HART is constrained by the funding they have, but said it wasn’t stopping the company’s innovation and imagination. And, she said, buses would not be the main solution to the county’s transit issues.

Eagan introduced the HART HyperLINK program, created to resolve the “first-mile, last-mile” issue. Working with Transdev, it’s considering a complement to existing bus service to provide access to a reservation call center and a smartphone app for customers which will allow real-time ride-sharing matching and rider incentives.

HART officials say the pilot program will begin in October and focus first on three select bus stops. Residents living within a three-mile radius of those stops will have the opportunity to try the program. The subsidized ride shares will cost residents $3 each way.

Eagan said once it was successful in Hillsborough County, it might go nationwide. It will start in the university area of Tampa, expanding to Brandon, and go on from there.


Bus ridership down in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties in 2016

In what almost seemed like a monthly occurrence in recent years, the PR staffs of both the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit agency (HART) and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) were regularly issuing out press releases touting record ridership numbers.

That is definitely not the case in 2016.

Speaking at the agency’s Finance and Audit Committee meeting Monday, HART CEO Katherine Eagan said ridership in 2016 is down some “five to six percent” in the current fiscal year, a trend she said is similar to other transit agencies across the country. “We do know that without exception, we’re looking at a contraction probably due to lower gas prices, the arrival of more options for transportation, and a few other things that we might not be getting our hands around,” she said.

Eagan said the agency will be doing more outreach with customers next year that will help in understanding the declining trend. And she said other important indexes are up, including vehicle miles traveled (VMT). “That makes our accomplishments — on-time performance and safety — and our biggest improvement on maintenance more notable.  We’re giving more reliable service, (and having) fewer collisions.”

PSTA’s ridership is also down this year. Total bus revenue trips are down 11 percent, and total fixed route passenger trips are down more than 12 percent.

In Washington D.C., Metrobus, the nation’s sixth-largest bus system with an average of 465,000 daily riders, saw a 3 percent decline in the first half of the fiscal year compared with the same period the previous year. In Los Angeles, the number of people riding buses and trains in L.A. county has dropped by about 9 percent, from 1.49 million average weekday boardings in 2014 to 1.36 million in the second quarter of fiscal year 2016.

From 2010-2015, HART’s ridership grew nearly 20 percent, which far exceeded the national standard at that time, Eagan says. “As we were really growing, there was definitely a component of gas is getting more expensive … we also had service improvements in 2008-10.”

Experts say the drop is due to a variety of factors, including changing job markets, falling gas prices and the growing popularity of other transportation options such as biking, and app-based services such as Uber and Lyft.

Then again, perhaps ridership numbers might have plateaued in 2014. Americans took 10.8 billion trips on public transportation that year, the highest annual public transit ridership number in 58 years, according to a report from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

Back to the drawing board for Hillsborough County PTC, new ridesharing rules

It’s back to the drawing board for the often rocky relationship between Hillsborough County and ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft.

After more than two years of failing to come to an agreement, the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission is now ambitiously hoping to have a complete set of rules for all private carriers by October.

That’s the plan anyway, after a proposal offered by Commissioner Al Higginbotham was rejected by the two transportation network companies (TNC’s) because it included background checks for drivers that would require fingerprints.

After his two proposals had failed, Higginbotham directed the PTC staff to come up with new rules to be voted on at the Rules & Policy Committee next week, and then bring those back to the full board in September, finalizing the deal by October.

That’s the plan, anyway.

Representatives from both Uber and Lyft told the PTC that significant progress has been made in recent months toward an agreement that would allow them to operate legally in Hillsborough County.

But neither side will budge on a requirement of background checks which include fingerprinting drivers.

“Lyft is in 66 cities with a population that is bigger than Tampa,” said Lyft attorney Steve Anderson. “None require fingerprinting.”

Anderson added that 33 states nationwide have enacted legislation to regulate TNC’s, and “zero require fingerprints.” He said that fingerprinting had its value, but it simply doesn’t work with the TNC model.

Higginbotham then recited a letter he received about how the county’s current regulatory structure for taxicabs, limousines and ridesharing companies has become “old and stale,” saying that it was time for the county to “encourage and reward innovation.”

PTC board member David Pogorilich, a Temple Terrace City Councilman, said it wouldn’t that take that long since the PTC crafted rules a year ago — with help from taxicab companies — that has just been sitting on a shelf, as well as rules proposed last week by upstart ridesharing company DriveSociety.

“We have a path forward for all the TNC’s. We just have to enact it,” Pogorilich said, adding that he wanted staff to provide a list of the number of citations issued against Uber and Lyft drivers.

He said it would show that the new regulations would qualify to be enacted under “emergency rules.”

PTC attorney Cindy Oster kicked off the discussion by saying that her review of the case law indicates that the courts “have not been hesitant to strike down emergency rules.”

The PTC’s Rules and Policy Committee will meet Tuesday.

Victor Crist said ethics complaint was meant to intimidate PTC board

As was reported on Monday, the Florida Commission on Ethics cleared Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission Chairman Victor Crist late last month of any conflict of interest charges last month, citing a “lack of legal sufficiency.”

The claim of an ethics violation was made by Louis Minardi, the owner of Yellow Cab Company of Tampa. Minardi obtained affidavits from representatives from three other cab companies and his own son who said that they overheard conversations with Crist in which he acknowledged his wife needs the goodwill of St. Petersburg state Senator Jeff Brandes to get state grants.

Brandes has been critical of the PTC for years. Crist’s wife Angela works at the University of South Florida as the director of the John Scott Dailey Institute of Government.

On Tuesday, Crist said the complaint was always bogus, and was intended to intimidate the rest of the PTC board to drop their support for the latest iteration of rule changes that he says he had worked tirelessly on leading up the to the agency’s June general board meeting.”It was an overstretch and inappropriate for them to make the complaints that they did because they were false and deceptive,” he said of the cab company representatives allegation. “I believe they were made not to penalize me, because they had to know that these were false accusations that wouldn’t have any muster. They did them to intimidate my board, and I think it was the final straw that did.”

But the board voted down the proposal on a 4-1 vote, with Crist the lone supporter.

“That was a shock to me,” he admits. “I knew (Guido) Mansicalso and (Ken) Hagan were supportive, and Hagan didn’t show at the meeting, and Maniscaco stayed quiet and didn’t say a word…when I looked around I was shocked. I was the only yes vote. It was clear that the the intimidation factor worked.”

When contacted on Tuesday, Maniscalco denied that the ethics complaint had anything to do with his vote opposing the rule changes. “That was just coincidence,” he says.”In my mind, it made no difference whether there was a complaint or not, I think the decision would have been made the same.”

At that June board meeting, Temple Terrace City Councilman David Pogorilich told Crist, “there’s no agreement, so there’s nothing for us to approve or disapprove.” He went on to say that, “personally, I don’t think that we should putting the PTC’s name on something just to say, ‘well, it’s less crappy than it was before. To me, that’s not compromise. That’s giving up.”

Crist says he’s hopeful that the board and the ridesharing companies will get behind two proposals on background checks for drivers that Commissioner Al Higginbotham will be presenting at the PTC meeting on Wednesday.

One of them will include a full background check for drivers – including mandatory fingerprinting , and one that doesn’t, Higginbotham says. Officials with Uber have previously said they object to fingerprinting their drivers.

Mitch Perry Report for 8.4.16 — Patrick Murphy shuts down the debate

Well, so much for the free flow of ideas inside the Florida Democratic Party.

Patrick Murphy announced yesterday he would not engage in any debates with Alan Grayson or Pam Keith in advance of the Aug. 30 Senate primary election, citing allegations of domestic abuse charged by Grayson’s ex-wife last week.

“Over the last week, I have heard from many people, including survivors of domestic abuse, that Alan Grayson’s continued presence in this race is an insult to the countless Floridians whose lives have been affected by this kind of violence,” Murphy said in a statement.

“Alan Grayson has refused to address these issues,” he continued. “Alan Grayson’s words and actions have disqualified him from public service, and I cannot in good conscience give him a platform to promote himself and his campaign. As a result, I will not participate in any forums or debates with Alan Grayson.”

Shortly after that statement was released, Grayson DID address the issue extensively, as reported by the Miami Herald’s Amy Sherman.

Concurrently, some of Murphy’s supporters, like state Rep. Audrey Gibson and recently elected state Sen. Lauren Book, issued statements backing their candidate’s decision to bow out against Grayson because of the allegations.

Grayson’s campaign manager, Michael Ceraso, accused Murphy of exploiting “this very personal family struggle for his own political gain,” adding, “while Patrick has actually been caught lying about himself and what he’s done, Alan has discussed these and any other allegations openly with the press.”

It should be noted Murphy previously had refused to participate in debates proposed by Florida Public radio stations WMFE, WLRN and WUSF, as well as a combined effort by Bay News 9/News 13 in Orlando. He had finally agreed to do one — and only one — debate on WFTV-TV Channel 9 in Orlando.

In a statement, WFTV Executive Producer Anthony Colarossi said: “the voters of Florida are the big losers here as they will be deprived the chance to hear Mr. Murphy and Mr. Grayson share their vision of Florida’s future.”

Now I know that the entirety of Florida and D.C. is rooting for Murphy to be the nominee to take on Marco Rubio this fall, but wouldn’t it better for all involved to have the Jupiter representative get a little debate practice in, if nothing else, before he steps in the ring with Rubio in a few months?

It seems those hurt by this are undecided Florida Democratic electorate who would like to see and hear the two candidates debate the issues straight up. But that’s apparently not going to happen.

In other news …

Talk about an unwanted endorsement: In Florida’s liberal Senate District 19 race, the NRA is sending out mailers telling voters to support Darryl Rouson in that contest.

The Senate District 19 Democratic primary is getting more heated by the day, as Ed Narain and Augie Ribeiro exchanged their thoughts about each other.

St. Pete Polls released three big statewide surveys yesterday: One shows Patrick Murphy with a big edge over Alan Grayson in the Democratic Senate race — one of the few head-to-head surveys of the two main candidates this summer.

It also shows Democrats are pretty focused on the presidential and Senate races, if they’re paying attention at all, because when asked who they like for governor, 38 percent chose Charlie Crist.

Meanwhile, Amendment 4, the solar power amendment on this August’s primary ballot, is winning big.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman isn’t keen on the Public Transportation Commission raising the fees on Uber and Lyft drivers operating outside of the PTC’s jurisdiction.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee blasted a number of House Republican candidates for being silent on the whole Trump/Khan family controversy, but David Jolly did issue a statement over the weekend.

Sandy Murman doesn’t want Hillsborough PTC to raise penalties on ridesharing drivers

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman said Wednesday she doesn’t want the Public Transportation Commission to raise the penalties on ridesharing drivers from $700 to $900.

“I think their fines are high enough,” she told her colleagues on the Board of County Commission at the end of their regular meeting. “If the fines are being raised to control a certain business that’s trying to operate in our community, I think that’s probably not the right way to do it.”

On Tuesday, the PTC’s Rules and Policy Committee was poised to vote on the rate hike, part of a package of new ’emergency rules’ that if approved, could have taken effect within 30 days of being approved by the full PTC board.

The increase in fines was opposed by Uber and Lyft, both of whom have been operating outside the PTC’s guidelines since they began operating in the spring of 2014. The ridesharing companies attorneys also objected to the new rules being implemented on an expedited basis.

Ultimately, the committee meeting ended without a vote.

Murman emphasized that it was just her opinion she wanted to express to the other board members who sit on the PTC board.

Commission Victor Crist (who was not present at Wednesday’s meeting) chairs the agency, while Ken Hagan and Al Higginbotham also sit on the PTC board.

The proposed new emergency rules were crafted last month by DriveSociety, a new ridesharing company in Hillsborough County.


Mitch Perry Report for 8.3.16 – How many GOP candidates still “not there yet” on Trump?

New York Representative Richard Hanna yesterday became the first Republican in Congress to say that not only could he not support Donald Trump for president (he said that months ago), but he now says he’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton in the fall.

“While I disagree with her on many issues, I will vote for Mrs. Clinton,” Hanna wrote in an op-ed. I will be hopeful and resolute in my belief that being a good American who loves his country is far more important than parties or winning and losing. I trust she can lead. All Republicans may not like the direction, but they can live to win or lose another day with a real candidate.”

President Obama attempted to persuade more Republicans to dump Trump (which will probably have an opposing effect, knowing how much they’re going to rely on his advice) yesterday. “There has to be a point,” the president said, “at which you say, ‘This is not somebody I can support for president of the United States, even if he purports to be a member of my party.’”

The question now is: how many Republicans will follow?

The answer isn’t clear this morning. Yes, Meg Whitman, somewhat of a GOP powerbroker, is also for now for Hillary, but what about other lawmakers or candidates?

Not much happening there, except for the proverbial, “I’m not there yet,” which was Paul Ryan‘s statement to Jake Tapper months ago, before he got there, as it were, and backed his party’s standard bearer.

Our own David Jolly in Pinellas County has also adopted the “not there yet,” phrase when asked if he could back Trump in November.

In a somewhat rich bit of irony, Trump told the Washington Post that he’s “not there yet” when it comes to supporting House Speaker Paul Ryan in his bid for reelection. “I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country,” the Manhattan business mogul told the Post’s Philip Bump. “We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet.”

Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, as conservative a voice as there is in popular commentary, wrote Tuesday that Clinton is pretty bad, but she is not “the apotheosis of evil,” and “not a sociopath.”

Would it matter if polling showed that it would be beneficial for Republicans down the ballot would prosper more if they disavowed Trump? Because surely that could move hearts and minds.

It is early August, so there’s plenty of time for Trump to pour arson on the fire in terms of his candidacy, which is never, ever about policy (why not attack an economy which had only 1% growth last quarter), but is aways about lashing out at perceived injustices uttered at the nominee.

In other news…

With his strong support for the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, Bob Buckhorn (and the Mrs.) got himself on the guest list for last night’s State Dinner at the White House with the Prime Minister of Singapore, one of the 12 nations on the pact.

Hillsborough County is now offering a diversion program for teenagers busted for possessing weed.

Well, that proposed meeting on new rules and regulations for ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft didn’t go very far yesterday in Hillsborough County.

Unlike that other constitutional amendment on solar power that Floridians will vote on in November, everybody loves the solar amendment measure known as Amendment Four this August, right? No, not exactly.

The Florida Democratic Party is taking sides in some competitive primaries this month. One candidate who isn’t being favored by the FDP says she’ll rely on grassroots power to win her contest.

C.J. Czaia is making some strong claims regarding the transparency of the endorsements that have gone to Wengay Newton and not himself in the HD 70 race. Not everyone agrees with him.

Public meeting on proposed new ride-sharing rules in Hillsborough County goes nowhere

Since they began operating in Florida in 2014, ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft have successfully negotiated to work legally in many of the state’s biggest areas, including Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.

It’s been a different story in Hillsborough County, however, as the two companies have been at odds with the Public Transportation Commission, which for nearly two-and-a-half years have continued to penalize drivers for operating without a permit.

That impasse will continue, after a meeting of the PTC’s Rules and Policy Committee to discuss and vote on new “emergency rules” was aborted after an hour after the acting chairman of the committee, Temple Terrace Councilman David Pogorilich, had to leave to conduct a phone call.

Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco was the only other member of that committee still present after a twenty-minute break. While Pogorilich wanted the meeting to continue without him, Steve Anderson, an attorney for Lyft, objected, saying the committee would be hearing testimony without a full quorum present. The meeting was then adjourned until Aug. 16.

“Embarrassing” was the comment uttered by County Commissioner Al Higginbotham after the meeting had concluded. Higginbotham is a member of the PTC who sat in on the discussion, but he is not a member of the Rules and Policy Committee.

What was at stake were new operating rules proposed for ride-sharing companies — aka TNC’s (transportation network companies) — that were proposed by a brand-new entrant into the market, DriveSociety.

On Monday, an attorney with Uber wrote a letter objecting to the new rules, and claimed that they came with significant input from the taxicab industry, who has also been at odds with Uber and Lyft since they began operating without permits in Hillsborough County in the spring of 2014.

Up until Pogorilich’s exit, the meeting focused on whether it was appropriate for the planned regulations to be listed as “emergency rules.” The ride-sharing companies vehemently disagreed that was the case.

“Where’s the emergency?” questioned Lyft attorney Paul Anderson. “Where’s the overwhelming evidence that there are criminals driving?”

Not true, countered Marcus Carter, the CEO of DriveSociety, referring to an Uber driver arrested last month in Miami for reportedly selling cocaine.

“Why do we have to wait for something like that to happen here?” he asked. “If over 50 percent of the public vehicles that are operating in Hillsborough County are not permitted vehicles? What else could be an emergency for the Public Transportation Commission I ask you … this is a rogue and gypsy infestation in Hillsborough County.”

“Let ’em challenge it,” added Yellow Cab owner Louis Minardi, referring to Anderson’s legal threats. “It’s their problem if they don’t follow state statute. It’s not our job to make it easy for them.

“And it’s not our job to make it more profitable for them. These are the rules.”

The PTC will try again to pick up the process in two weeks.

Blake Dowling: Not in this lifetime – tech and the Guns N’ Roses reunion tour

On a Wednesday evening in 1988, I joined my friend Quinn Borland for an epic concert in Albany, Georgia.

Opening for rock legends Motley Crüe was a little-known band called Guns N’ Roses.

I was in middle school, so it was an incredibly big deal to be out on the town on a school night.

The show was spectacular, and in the years to follow, the band rocketed to worldwide success.

GNR 1996
Guns N’ Roses in 1996.

Fast forward to 1992, and my friend Ron LaFace and I caught the band in Tampa on the “Use Your Illusion Tour.” The band was on top of the world; in their prime. Soon after that, they broke up.

About 10 years ago, lead singer Axl Rose was asked if the band would ever reform. “Not in this lifetime,” he said.

Never say never, as earlier this summer most of the original line-up launched a massive reunion that rivals any traveling show on the planet.

It’s called the “Not in this Lifetime” tour.

Over the weekend, I caught their performance for the “Not in This Lifetime” tour at Orlando’s Citrus Bowl; they delivered an evening of 100 percent gold.

It’s interesting to note how the world has changed since the original heyday of GNR.

Andy and I were rolling down I-10, and he kept looking at his iPad to check some map. I asked him what he was doing, and he said he uses the Waze app for travel. Waze points out traffic issues, accidents, police, cheap gas and anything else you might need while going down the road. It is a community app, so you rely on other drivers to get you the information you need; you can contribute also. Very cool.

Guns N’ Roses in 2016.
Guns N’ Roses in 2016.

It would have been nice to have this in the 80s.

I used Uber to get a ride to the Stadium. Andy had never used that app, so I explained how I use the app while traveling, from the tailgate spot back to the hotel in Gainesville, etc.

For the two of us, it was 10 dollars to get dropped off in front of our gate. What a deal.

(I assume I don’t need to define Uber.)

The world of rock and roll and technology have indeed formed a bond. My friend was obsessed with the GNR Twitter account as they randomly awarded guests seat upgrades and free swag throughout the evening.

We did not win.

However, we had a truly authentic engagement with the GNR brand and community. That was thanks to social media.

Speaking of social media, I try to keep posts short and sweet.

I will post a column I wrote, a concert pic, me and the family on vacation, etc. I shy away from political rants, sharing personal problems with the world, how much l love my dog, etc.

But I couldn’t help but post a two-minute video of the encore, Paradise City.

There was so much going on that it was irresistible. Fireworks, epic jam, sound and lights off the chart, plus the band sounded amazing (that’s important). Axl is not 25 anymore, but he can still bring the thunder as good as anyone.

The conversation about music and technology is usually about how tech, specifically online file sharing has destroyed the business. And, believe me, I understand that dialogue; I used to work in the business.

However, if you think about how technology has changed the concert experience for the user, it is mind-boggling. Getting to the show, enjoying the show and documenting it for vital Facebook posts make the 2016 concert experience both unique and weird.

I say weird because half the stadium was staring at their phones during the show, maybe they were playing Pokémon Go? LOL.

If you get a chance to see the 2016 GNR, I say go for it.



Blake Dowling is Chief Executive Officer of Aegis Business Technologies. His columns are publishing by several organizations. You can reach him at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Uber strongly opposes latest round of proposed changes on ridesharing in Hillsborough County

The Rules and Policy Committee of the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission (PTC) is scheduled Tuesday to consider another attempt at establishing new regulations for TNC’s (transportation network companies) in the county, and an attorney with Uber is not pleased with what is being proposed.

“The proposed regulations ­­which closely track regulations proposed by the taxicab industry in 2015 ­­ would protect the incumbent industry by imposing anti­competitive and antiquated regulations on the TNC industry,” writes Kate Wooler, an attorney representing Uber, in a letter to PTC Executive Director Kyle Cockream. “These regulations are an attempt to force TNCs to pack up and leave the County.”

According to Wooler, among the onerous proposals include imposing wait times and minimum fares; setting a cap of 1,500 drivers who can operate for a particular ridesharing company in Hillsborough County; Require TNC’s to maintain 24/7 commercial insurance on the personal vehicles used for TNC trips; and requiring TNC drivers to undergo a background check that “discriminates against communities of color.”

Wooler also contends that the new regulations were generated by Drive Society, a new startup ridesharing service operating out of Tampa, along with significant input from the taxicab industry.

And she says that the proposed regulations are being offered as “emergency” regulations, which would mean they could go into effect after the PTC’s next meeting on August 10th without the typical 30 ­day comment period for regulations.

“In other words, the proponents of these regulations are attempting to ram these regulations through the PTC before the public has an opportunity to review and comment on them,” Wooler writes.

Ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft have been operating out of compliance with Hillsborough regulators since they first began offering rides in April of 2014. It has at times been an acrimonious relationship, as the PTC and the companies have struggled to come up with a proposal in Hillsborough to have them operating legally. Because of that, the PTC has cited Uber and Lyft drivers hundreds of times over the past couple of years. Earlier this year there appeared to be the possibility of both sides coming together, but that was not the case.

Cockream was unavailable for comment Monday afternoon.

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