Tampa cabbies lash out at Uber and the govt. officials who they say enable them

David Bean is pissed.

It's never been easy being a cabdriver, but for seven years he's toiled for Yellow Cab in Tampa, and he doesn't dig the fact that drivers for ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft haven't had to undergo the same regulations that he has in order to provide transportation for local residents needing a ride in the city.

"I got my insurance right here," he says as he unfolds a document while standing on a median on Carillon Parkway in St. Petersburg on Wednesday morning, just outside of the parking lot of the Hilton Hotel where a half-day long transportation summit is being held. 

"Here's my copy of my DOT (Dept. of Transportation) physical, OK?," he says, grabbing another document. "Here's my professional transportation license. OK?"

Like other cabdrivers in Tampa, Bean is feeling a bit besieged these days, accused by some of working in an antiquated industry while the newbie share-riding companies charge less for fares and haven't gone through the certification process that all licensed cabbies are required to undergo while driving a cab in Hillsborough County. 

"If someone gets hurt in their vehicle, who is going to pick up the hospital bill?" Bean goes on to ask, referring to the companies' insurance policies, whicc some analysts have said aren't adequate for driving a commercial vehicle. Bean brings up "surge pricing," an action that Uber has utilized in cities like New York and Los Angeles during heavy commute periods when they have selectively jacked their fare rates up.

"If Uber doesn't have to have insurance, we don't have to have insurance," he said. "If they can price surge, we have to be able to price surge."

Bean was joined by four other Tampa-based cabdrivers, all feeling that they've been discarded by their local officials. Their philosophy seems to be that they played by the rules, and are now suckers, as Uber and Lyft have worked around those same rules and are now flourishing in the Tampa Bay area.

Vincent Tolbert has driven a cab for Yellow Cab in Tampa for 19 years, and is also working on getting his own small cab company off the ground, called Silver Fox Company. When challenged about the fact that traditional companies like Yellow and United in Tampa have for years seemed to take riders for granted and hardly been customer-service friendly, he doesn't deny that, and says the larger cab companies like Yellow and United are working on raising their respective performances. 

"I had to go through all the regulations and all the permits to make my cab company a viable cab company in Hillsborough County," Tolbert says. "Uber and Lyft have to do the same thing."

"I don't understand why aren't our elected officials enforcing the law," asked Wally Copes, whose been driving a cab in Tampa since 1979.

In fact, the agency responsible for regulating cabs in Hillsborough County, the Public Transportation Commission, has cited and fined numerous drivers in the county in the past few months, but the majority of such drivers with Lyft and Uber continue to drive without being sanctioned. 

David Bean said he was particularly aghast about what he saw last weekend in Tampa's bustling SoHo party scene neighborhood. He said drivers like him have to "stage," meaning line up around the corner from a particular establishment to pick up a fare, yet "Uber drivers are picking up right on the street in front of police officers, and they're not doing anything about it!"

The main reason those officers aren't doing anything about is because Mayor Bob Buckhorn has already declared that he wouldn't allow TPD officers to do that. Though Jane Castor, and not Buckhorn, runs the department, undoubtedly the Chief has determined that there are bigger fish to fry in terms of priorities.

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.