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Ridesharing proposal no done deal in Hillsborough County

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

It’s not the first time that officials with the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission are touting a proposed agreement that would finally bring ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft under their compliance.

Nevertheless, the board is scheduled to sit down in closed session on Wednesday to attempt to hammer out a proposed deal with the two companies. Among the details: the plan calls for Uber and Lyft  to carry liability coverage of at least $50,000 for bodily injury to one person in one accident; $100,000 for all persons in any one accident and $25,000 for property damage. That’s lower than that of the taxi companies, which have requirements of $125,000 for body injury, $250,000 for all persons in one accident and $25,000 for each respective category. The policy also says that the ridesharing companies must provide primary automobile liability insurance of at least $1,000,000 for death, personal injury and property damage.

It also calls allows Uber and Lyft to bypass fingerprint-based background checks, a key issue that Public Transportation Commission chair Victor Crist and the PTC have been opposing since the companies began operating in Hillsborough County in April of 2014. In its place, the agreement calls for the companies on their own or through a third party will conduct “a local and national criminal background check that shall include (a) Multi-State/Multi-Jurisdiction Criminal Records Locator or other similar commercial nationwide database with validation (primary source search), and (b) National Sex Offender Registry database.”

Uber would also pay $250,000.00 to cover any administrative and regulatory costs associated their operations annually, Lyft $125,000.

Upon the signing of the agreement, all lawsuits filed between the PTC and Uber would be dismissed.

Lou Minardi, president of the Florida Taxicab Association and owner of Yellow Cab in Tampa, is angry about the proposal. He says he’s been locked out of closed door meetings that were held to create these new rules, and says “the whole thing is a way for Victor to allow them to operate,” referencing Uber and Lyft.

However, the agreement does allow for the PTC to conduct annual audits of up to one thousand ride-sharing drivers.

Minardi is so disillusioned with Crist’s leadership at the PTC that he says he made a request last week to have Crist removed as chair of the commission.

“It’s basically because of the bias that he’s shown at the workshops, the comments he’s made at the BOCC. Different remarks he’s made to members of the taxi industry that he’s got personal reasons why he wants to get this done, ” Minardi says, adding, “He wants to abolish the PTC. How are you chairman of a commission that you want to get rid of?”

Minardi is referencing Crist’s remarks uttered last month that he’s willing to go along with long-time critics of the agency and have it ultimately dissolved.

It’s a long cry from when this whole issue began two years ago, when Crist was depicted by some critics as almost a handmaiden of the taxi cab industry. Then again, the two ridesharing companies have recently reached agreements in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.

Representatives from the taxicab companies and the ridesharing industry say they don’t want to say too much more about the proposed agreement going into Wednesday’s hearings, because they say there have been changes made since the proposed new rules were released on Friday.

 

 

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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