Just as how the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day, officials at St. Petersburg’s City Hall are deferring taking any regulatory action against ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft.
City Councilmember Darden Rice told Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal that all parties involved “are ever closer to an agreement to present to Council that is fair to the taxi companies and does not encumber rideshare companies with burdensome regulations and fees.”
After Uber objected to a proposal to tax it on a per-vehicle scale, the ridesharing company — in a roundabout way — suggested it might have to make an economic decision about continuing to operate in St. Petersburg.
One member of City Council said this prompted the city to come up with a new proposal that does away with the per-vehicle tax. Unfortunately, this member said, there was enough time before Thursday’s meeting to get the proposal before Council.
“We are continuing to talk with Uber and the taxi companies in advance of any official action being taken,” Mayor Rick Kriseman’s representative Ben Kirby told Irwin. “Mayor Kriseman’s priority is keeping these companies in our market. He wants to see them thrive.”
Uber officials say the company would prefer to come to an agreement with St. Petersburg on a flat fee, such as in other Florida cities like Tallahassee and Gainesville – fees there range between $5,000 and $10,000 to allow ridesharing companies to operate.
Lyft is “optimistic” the company could reach an understanding with the city.
“We’re continuing productive conversations with Council around the vehicle-for-hire ordinance, including discussions about possible fee structures,” Lyft spokeswoman Chelsea Harrison told the Tampa Bay Times in an email.
On Monday, SaintPetersBlog questioned the wisdom of any effort to regulate ridesharing companies: “Really, Mayor Kriseman, this is the issue on which you want to take a stand? Against the extraordinarily popular ridesharing companies which, by the way, just made sure everyone got home safely after the New Year’s Eve festivities?”
And, as Irwin notes, moving forward with local regulations may be shortsighted ahead of this year’s legislative session: “Lawmakers are expected to consider statewide regulations that would most likely pre-empt any local rules.”