How long will the Hillsborough PTC continue to stand in the way of innovation?

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Why does the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission have it in for the Tampa area’s residents and tourists?

It’s so clear that this area wants – demands – the flexibility and convenience of modern technology as represented by ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft. Yet it’s just as clear that members of the PTC want to cling desperately to the old ways embodied by the taxi industry.

The real loser in this long-running squabble is the consumer, who is being denied an option enjoyed by travelers across the nation. Goodness, even the less-than-urbane “metropolis” of Tallahassee gives consumers a ridesharing option.

Just a few weeks ago, it looked like the PTC was going to reach an agreement with Lyft and Uber that would have brought Hillsborough fully into the modern world of ridesharing. Ever since that accord fell apart, the PTC has gone out of its way to make life harder for the companies – and, therefore, for the countless consumers who want to use their services.

Now it seems the PTC will be voting on a scheme to increase fines on ridesharing drivers who try to make ends meet by ferrying riders. Really, what independent driver is going to risk a $900 fine just to earn a little extra cash by taking willing passengers where they want to go?

It isn’t enough for the PTC to insist on an array of overly complicated licensing requirements that are simply unnecessary. No, they’ve got to pile on by targeting regular folks trying to make an extra buck or two. The PTC claims it’s just trying to make sure consumers are safe, but a recent survey of Tampa Bay Business Journal readers showed that 70 percent of them feel plenty safe using the ridesharing services.

The PTC has already shown that it’s in the hip pocket of the taxi trade. That behind-the-times industry views ridesharing as a serious threat, but refuses to recognize that it opened the door for ridesharing by providing an inferior product.

Consumers across the Tampa Bay area want ridesharing. Free-enterprise legislators want ridesharing. It seems that only members of the PTC and the taxi industry don’t want ridesharing.

It’s time they got with the times and give the people what they want. And stop bullying the new guys just because they’re something new.

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.