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Tampa Bay Partnership hails House passage of ride-sharing bill

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Heading into the 2017 Legislative Session, the Tampa Bay Partnership listed the creation of a regional transit agency connecting four Tampa Bay-area counties as its top priority.

Another priority was the desire to see a bill passed regulating ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. It’s closer to achieving success on the latter, with the Florida House voting unanimously Wednesday for a bill sponsored by Republicans Chris Sprowls and Jamie Grant.

“Ride-sharing is an integral component of a multi-modal regional transportation system and a cost-effective, private sector option to enhance regional connectivity,” said Rhea Law, chair of the Tampa Bay Partnership. “It also shows strong promise as a solution to the ‘first mile, last mile’ concerns associated with moving people between their homes and a core transit system.”

Until last fall, the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission had been at war with Uber and Lyft, with both companies taking the PTC to court to challenge their rulemaking ability That tension was something that the Tampa Bay area political establishment, as personified by the Partnership, wanted to cease this year, something alluded to by Law in her statement.

“The previously inconsistent regulations throughout the state, and particularly within the Tampa Bay region, created an environment that negatively impacted both rideshare companies and their customers,” she said. “With the passage of this legislation, we’re closer to achieving consistent, and legal, policies to guide this growing industry, and ensuring that technology and innovation can continue to play a role in addressing our transportation challenges. We thank the bill sponsor, Rep. Chris Sprowls, and the other members of the Bay Area Legislative Delegation for their support and leadership on this issue.”

The PTC did finally make peace with Uber and Lyft last fall, coming to terms on a temporary agreement last November.

Despite the enthusiasm for Wednesday’s vote, the bill hasn’t gone to Governor Rick Scott’s desk just yet. That’s because its Senate companion, SB 340 sponsored by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes, still has another committee to get through before making it to the Senate floor.

That vote is scheduled to take place Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the bill creating a regional transit agency in the Tampa Bay area will come before the House Government Accountability Committee on Thursday.

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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