Facing county resistance, Uber launches UberX in Miami

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After hitting speed bumps in both Miami-Dade County and the Florida Capitol, Uber’s campaign to change limousine rules so passengers could summon rides using its smartphone app has now turned into outright insurgency.

The on-demand towncar service is now going full speed ahead; on Wednesday, Uber launched its ride sharing service UberX in Miami, reports Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald.

UberX has now joined Lyft, a competing service that started offering trips two weeks ago in Miami-Dade County.

As the Uber/Lyft rivalry continues, both sides are on the same side in the fight against the county administration, which sees both businesses illegal. So far, city officials have issued 11 fines to Lyft drivers.

Defiance of local laws amounts to a type of insurgency against Miami-Dade County, even though Uber and Lyft describe its strategy in much more cordial, and similar, terms.

“What we’re hearing more and more is an urging and an excitement to try to work to find a solution,” said Uber regional manager Rachel Holt.

“We’re committed to working with local leaders to pass new rules for this new, peer-to-peer industry.” Paige Thelen, a Lyft spokesperson, told the Herald.

Uber unsuccessfully lobbied county commissioners last year in an attempt to deregulate the car-service industry, with entrenched protections for limousine and cabs. The San Francisco-based firm took its case to Tallahassee last session, without success.

In the two weeks since Lyft began running, county transportation regulators issued 11 citations to drivers for operating without a chauffeur registration and a valid for-hire license, said Miami-Dade division chief Joe Mora. The fines amount to about $2,000 for each citation.

Thelen said Lyft, which only knows of four citations, would help drivers fight the fines. UberX will do the same, Holt said.

Lyft and Uber seem to consider the fines as a cost of entering the sought-after Miami market, serving the throngs of tourists and burgeoning tech scene, with residents eagerly waiting to take advantage of ride-sharing services, which are already in most other big cities across the country and worldwide.

Uber is even looking to open a permanent office in Miami and is publicizing three Miami-Dade-based management positions.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.