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After 3-year fight, Lyft, Uber now street legal at TPA

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft have been a black market at Tampa International Airport since 2014. But now, they’re legit.

The “transportation network companies,” along with competitor Wingz, came to a formal agreement this week with airport officials to legally pick up and drop off passengers there.

Taxicab companies have cried foul ever since those companies began operating at the airport. They’ve had to pay for the right to pick up fares there; Uber and Lyft haven’t.

Joe Lopano, the CEO of Tampa International Airport, on Thursday said that until now, the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission (PTC) had jurisdiction on regulating vehicle for hire services at the airport.

But with that agency about to die out by the end of the year (per a bill passed in the Legislature this year mandating the agency’s extinction), it’s only been recently that the airport has had the authority to negotiate directly with those companies.

Lopano says the airport signed contracts with Uber, Lyft and upstart Wingz on Wednesday.

“Those operators have been using the airport and not paying fees, which is not fair because the taxicab companies have been paying fees,” he said Thursday.

Under the agreement, beginning on August 3 and running through September 30, 2018, transportation network companies will be required to pay $3.00 for each pickup at TPA.

Those fees will then go up to $4.00 on October 1, 2018 through September 30, 2019, and $5 from Oct. 1, 2019 through Sept. 30, 2020.

Tampa airport officials say that the TNC agreement is only for one year, plus another option year. The $5 per-trip fee in the third year would either come as an amendment to the current agreement or executing a new agreement

Uber thinks that rate hike is too much.

“Uber pushed back and is against the fee hike to $4.00,” says spokesman Javi Correoso. “We would like the pickup fee to more closely reflect what other airports across the state pay in order to keep trips affordable for the thousands of Tampa Bay visitors and residents that will be using ridesharing as their preferred transportation method.”

Currently, Miami International charges ride-booking companies $2.00 a pickup; Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International $3.00, and West Palm Beach International is at $2.50.

Originally, Tampa airport officials proposed that drivers would need to pick up fares in a parking garage. After further discussions, it was agreed that the airport will allow pickups at curbside.

For the first two and a half years of their existence in Hillsborough County, Uber and Lyft operated illegally as they failed to reach a regulatory agreement with the PTC, leading to litigation and a contentious relationship.

The companies finally came to an agreement with the agency last November.

After years of futility, the Florida Legislature finally passed a statewide law this spring regulating transportation network companies.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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