St. Pete to consider ordinance making way for Uber and Lyft

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Ride share companies like Uber and Lyft are becoming an increasingly popular alternative transportation choice for people across the globe and locally. The shift away from traditional taxi services hasn’t been without controversy though.

On both sides of the bay officials have grappled with whether or not to further regulate the companies and have failed to definitively answer whether or not Uber and Lyft drivers are operating within the confines of the law.

The city of St. Petersburg may be poised to change that though.

“It’s not allowed right now, although Uber is operating in our city,” Sally Everett, one of Mayor Rick Kriseman’s staffers, told WTSP. She and other city staffers are working with representatives from Uber and Lyft as well as cab companies to draft an ordinance that would address safety for riders and the cost for companies. Both issues have come into play by taxi giants like Yellow Cab and the two main rideshare companies.

The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission has taken a hard line on Uber and Lyft. Drivers have received citations for operating without the proper licensing. Uber has thus far encouraged drivers to keep working and has paid fines for them.

I’ve taken multiple rides with Uber in both Hillsborough County and St. Pete. Drivers tell me things are tougher in Tampa, but there have been some issues in St. Pete as well. One driver said he just keeps his Uber-issued phone out of site so ticketing authorities don’t recognize him as an Uber driver.

St. Pete city staffers hope to have a draft ordinance ready for City Council by the end of the year. City Council members will decide on December 4 whether or not to have a workshop on the issue. The goal is to have a new vehicle-for-hire ordinance in place to accommodate ride shares and taxis by next year’s first quarter.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.