Uber threatens to pull out of Hillsborough County over fingerprint rules

AP Photo

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Drivers for ride services Uber and Lyft packed a Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission meeting on Wednesday to fight for their right to drive.

The PTC controls taxis, limos and tow trucks and is trying to enforce rules on the upstart ride services.

For more than two years the PTC and ride services have been at odds.

PTC officers have issued tickets and fines to drivers for operating in the county. Uber and Lyft have paid the fines.

Hillsborough County is the only county in the Tampa Bay area with a public transportation commission and the only county trying to enforce rules on the ride services

On Wednesday, the PTC considered rules that would be among the toughest in the nation for ride services.

A PTC committee suggested requiring a fingerprint background check for drivers along with a minimum seven minute wait time for rides and a minimum $7 fair for each ride.

A representative for Uber charged the rules were written by the CEO of a local cab company.

“The backwards proposals that dominated the meeting were designed to do one thing and one thing only and that’s limit competition. They have nothing to do with safety, They were written by a local transportation company CEO with the express goal of forcing out two companies,” said Colin Tooze with Uber.

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Seth Mills with the Tampa Taxi Coalition believes the rules being considered were designed for  consumers.

“The rules that are before you today are set of sensible rules designed to provide for public safety,” said Mills speaking before the commission.

However, speaker after speaker at the meeting urged the PTC to vote down the rules saying they are about limiting competition, not public safety.

“Uber passengers rate their experience on a per ride basis and because of this I have never been in an Uber car that I felt was unsafe or unclean. I can not say the same for my Tampa cab riding experience,” said Todd Montgomery.

A compromose of sorts was eventually passed by the commission, requiring fingerprint background checks but doing away with the minimum fair and wait times.

Uber still says they will pull out of the county if the rules are enforced.

“We are going to wait and see what the rules look like. I will say that Uber will not operate under rules that, if enforced, look like the rules under consideration today,” said Tooze.

A final vote on the new rules may happen in October.

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