Jacksonville gears up for another attempt at ridesharing legislation

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Jacksonville’s attempt to enact ridesharing legislation, thus far, has met with mixed success.

A Vehicles for Hire subcommittee in the city council ended earlier this year, with little in the way of actual resolution.

For every decision the subcommittee made — such as changing the inspection time frame for cabs from once every 120 days to once a year— there was a lesson, such as the fact that inspections, as currently conducted, are vague, subjective, and offer little in the way of guaranteed safety for consumers.

One meaningful decision that could save money for taxicabs: amendment of “blanket insurance” policies, allowing different levels of coverage based on whether a cab is currently hired or not.

However, these recommendations — arrived at after a year of meetings — nibble around the edges of the larger issue.

As Vehicles for Hire chair Matt Schellenberg wrote, the best way to level the playing field is not to lard the ridesharing industry up with regulations, but to deregulate the landscape as much as possible, compelling the cab industry to improve its operations and take advantage of the “technological advancements” the competition is using.

Easier said than done, of course. Legislation has been stalled out in city council since Alvin Brown was mayor.

That said, on the Uber end, optimism reigns, as Uber’s Florida public affairs director Javi Correoso told FloridaPolitics.com Thursday.

The goal, Correoso said: to work with the council and the mayor toward a viable regulatory framework.

The framework makes all the difference.

Legislation currently being considered in Hillsborough County, reports the Tampa Bay Times, includes a $7 minimum fare and a seven-minute wait time — onerous burdens which led State Sen. Jeff Brandes to lament he was “disappointed and sad for Hillsborough that this is the kind of leadership they have.”

Correoso said this could potentially be the “worst regulatory framework in the United States” if it passes, setting up an anti-competitive “matrix of rules … written by the cab industry … to protect entrenched interests,” with the intent of forcing Uber and Lyft out of the Tampa market.

The Tampa tribulation doesn’t necessarily have to be Jacksonville’s fate, of course.

The goal for Uber and Lyft both: a new piece of legislation, which totally levels the playing field, offering commonsense solutions on issues like medallions, inspections, and proof of insurance.

In terms of cities like Jacksonville dealing with events, it could be argued that a thriving ridesharing industry is necessary.

Correoso’s goal: “to have this done by the end of the year.”

There is optimism, of course, that it will be handled on the state level in 2017; a ridesharing bill that cleared the House with ease last session stalled out in the Senate.

But Uber would like for this to be handled locally first.

Mayor Lenny Curry, though not a voting member of the city council, enthused about ridesharing services during his campaign for office.

And for the company, which first came to the market in 2013, Jacksonville is key.

Uber wants background checks, Correoso said, as “safety is very important.”

But the company also wants the safeguards that come with regulation, safeguards which allow the company to partner with sports teams, health care facilities, and other enterprises that see advantages to creating reliable relationships with transportation network companies.

“When you’re not regulated,” Correoso said, “there are a lot more obstacles.”

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at [email protected]



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