SARASOTA, FL (WFLA) — Uber and Lyft are now free to operate in Sarasota. The Sarasota City Commission voted Tuesday night to deregulate all for-hire vehicles, including taxis.
The city will no longer regulate insurance rates or require vehicle inspections. Regulating Uber and Lyft has been an ongoing struggle for communities in the Tampa Bay area and around the country.
PREVIOUS STORY: Tuesday night, Sarasota City Commissioners will discuss rules for the ride sharing services.
Sarasota Parking Division Manager Mark Lyons claims they’re not trying to put the brakes on the service completely, saying “I think the city loves the Uber operating model. We just want to make them legal.”
On Tuesday, city commissioners will discuss having Uber drivers complete background checks (including fingerprints), placing signs (designating Uber) in their vehicles while on duty, paying a $35 registration fee, having regular vehicle inspections, and getting compliant insurance. While Uber didn’t respond to 8 On Your Side’s most recent request for comment, a spokesperson sent this statement regarding a similar vote: “As written, the proposed ordinance would threaten our ability to continue providing access to safe, reliable transportation options and expanded economic opportunity for local entrepreneurs. We hope commissioners and the county attorney continue work with us to develop more modern, sensible regulations and create a permanent home for ride sharing in Sarasota.”
Most Uber drivers in Sarasota didn’t want to talk to 8 On Your Side, worried for their jobs, however one Tampa driver said he would be happy to comply by similar regulations if that meant he could drive without fear of getting busted.
The number of DUI arrest made by Tampa Police dropped dramatically this year. For the first six months of 2014 TPD made 1,124 DUI arrests. In the same period in 2015 they made 776 arrests for driving while intoxicated, and Uber could be one of the reasons.
The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, which continues to try to regulate the ride service, tells News Channel 8 there are other safety concerns. “There have been dozens of cases where we found people to have very lengthy criminal histories to include kidnapping, false imprisonment, domestic violence, prostitution, you name it,” said Kyle Cockream, Executive Director of the Hillsborough PTC.
The meeting in Sarasota starts Tuesday night at 6 p.m.