They say the past is prologue. If that’s true, past votes and actions by Hillsborough County’s Public Transportation Commission can give us a glimpse at how the showdown over ridesharing may unfold.
And it looks like it could all be in the hands of one board member: Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan.
Oct. 13 is the date of the public hearing that could determine the future of ridesharing in Hillsborough County. That’s when the PTC is expected to vote to finalize new regulations for ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft. Among the contentious issues are Level II background checks and Public Vehicle Driver Licenses.
Five votes in favor of the new regulations allowed the plan to advance to this point, with only Hagan and Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco in dissent.
Hagan has shown a preference for wanting to reach a settlement both parties can agree on. He supported opening negotiations to develop a temporary operating agreement between the PTC and ridesharing companies, rather than simply adopting a scheme that one side or the other would end up hating.
With the board seemingly split down the middle on the proposed regulations, Hagan has a real opportunity to listen to the wishes of his constituents and come out a hero on behalf of innovation.
The people of Hillsborough County have spoken out pretty clearly in support of ridesharing. They use it — all the time. Thousands have signed a petition to keep their community from becoming the next Austin, which Uber and Lyft earlier left earlier this year due to similar enforced regulations by a city council that wouldn’t embrace innovation.
This is Hagan’s opportunity to listen to the those in the community who disapprove of competition-limiting regulations. Earlier this month the head of government affairs and policy for the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce spoke out against the PTC and the taxicab industry in Hillsborough, declaring that there’s no excuse for the commission “to limit any further economic growth of a region by over-regulating an industry that’s being rightfully challenged by innovation.”
Proponents of the regulations include PTC member and Temple Terrace Councilman David Pogorilich, who has cited safety as the main concern for constituents. However, the thousands of Uber and Lyft supporters reject the claim that the regulations are anything more than a stifling ploy to reduce competition and inhibit innovation.
In just a few months, the Legislature is expected to take a comprehensive look at ridesharing from a statewide perspective. So in the meantime, there’s really no need for the PTC to adopt regulations that will divide the community.
If it’s all in Ken Hagan’s hands, let’s hope he sides with the future — and the public.