Hillsborough PTC approves new Uber, Lyft regulations

Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission passed new ridesharing regulations Wednesday, despite dozens of pleas during public comment and thousands of petition signatures demanding no rules.

After a two-year debate, transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft now face rules that include mandates for fingerprint background checks, vehicle inspections, a 10-year model year limit and a cap on price surging in the case of an emergency situation. The PTC eliminated the controversial $7 minimum fares and seven-minute minimum wait times.

Uber and Lyft both oppose the fingerprint background checks.

“We’re not going to agree to a flawed process that’s designed to limit competition and force companies out of the market,” said Colin Tooze, Uber’s public affairs manager.

Before approving the rules, Crist acknowledged that Uber and Lyft would not comply with any rules the PTC would pass.

“We’re making rules here that Uber and Lyft are not going to follow,” Crist said. “They’re going to continue to operate just like they do. With the rules we’ve got or with any new rules we create.”

Crist said that the PTC’s decision to vote isn’t about limiting Uber and Lyft. Instead, the PTC’s vote is creating the opportunity for other ridesharing companies to come and operate legally in the Tampa market, Crist said.

Michael Leto, CEO of ridesharing company Fare in Austin, Texas said he wouldn’t enter the Tampa Bay area market “where we’re going to be fighting with competitors who don’t have to comply with the rules.”

But, Uber is considering other options to move forward despite the PTC’s decision to approve the regulations. The company is offering to provide the PTC with a temporary operating agreement to maintain Uber’s service legally in Hillsborough County pending state-level legislation. Although Uber has not released the document, Tooze said it’s “more restrictive than laws passed in 36 states” where Uber currently operates.

Wednesday’s vote does not mean the two-year debate has been resolved. The PTC is required by state law to hold a public hearing on the ridesharing issue at its Oct. 13 meeting. The state law allows for affected companies to request a hearing, which Uber and Lyft both intend to ask for.

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