Buckhorn: TPD won’t be ticketing Uber

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The drama between Uber and the Hillsborough County Public Transportation rolls on.

On-demand ridesharing services UberX and Lyft have been operating in Tampa since April, much to the consternation of PTC Executive Director Kyle Cockream.

Operating without certification by the PTC, Cockream has (very vocally) declared that these drivers violate the law. PTC officers have issued about 40 citations to drivers of both companies over the months since UberX and Lyft starting servicing Tampa-area passengers.

However, that is not enough for Cockream; recently he began reaching out for assistance, through a series of letters to law enforcement, such as the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and police departments in Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City.

On Thursday, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn responded – his police force will not be citing Uber or Lyft drivers.

“We don’t think it’s our job,” the mayor (and Uber supporter) told Mitch Perry of Creative Loafing Tampa. “We think it’s a civil issue, it’s not a criminal issue. Tampa Police Department will not be deployed in enforcing PTC regulations.”

Buckhorn added that he believes the PTC “needs to go away,” but until then, they need to “incorporate Lyft and Uber” into the agency’s operations.

Cockream, who did not respond to Creative Loafing’s latest requests for comment, did say earlier that letters to law enforcement agencies was a call to “pool resources to deal with this problem.”

The county’s Special Act that created Commission allows for both misdemeanor criminal arrests and civil infractions. “You’ve got to comply with certain rules on the books,” Cockream said, directly referring to Uber and Lyft drivers’ lack of authorization to pick up fares in Hillsborough County.

Perry notes that Uber is continuing the dialogue with the PTC, according to company spokesperson Natalia Montalvo, “but they’ve decided to protect an entrenched incumbent industry rather than serve in the best interests of consumers and drivers.”

Cockream responded that Uber has been reluctant in the past to contend with the PTC, but expects to meet Uber representatives in the near future.

“Fundamentally we believe that Lyft’s peer-to-peer transportation model does not fall under existing regulations,” said Lyft spokesperson Paige Thelan, adding that company officials anticipate more meetings with Cockream, possibly reaching a “mutually satisfying” legal understanding.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.