Crist to leave PTC board in November
TAMPA - After four years as chairman of the Public Transportation Commission governing board, Victor Crist said Thursday he will leave the agency in November.
Crist, who is a Hillsborough County commissioner, made the announcement at a press event where he unveiled a new set of rideshare regulations he has negotiated with Uber and Lyft officials, his latest attempt to resolve the agency’s long running dispute with the two firms.
He said the Oct. 13 meeting where the full PTC board will consider his proposal will be his last as chairman and that he will ask to be reassigned to the Metropolitan Planning Organization during the county commission reorganizational meeting in November.
During the past three years, the PTC has been at the center of a conflict between rideshare firms and taxicab and limousine rental firm owners trying to protect their share of the market.
The agency, which regulates for-hire vehicles in Hillsborough County, has issued $700 tickets to rideshare drivers for operating without permits and insurance coverage it requires of taxicab drivers. That has made it a target of some state lawmakers who say it is stifling entrepreneurship and innovation.
“It’s because of philosophical differences in the direction that agency has chosen to go and the direction I believe it should go,” Crist said of his decision. “For last four years, I’ve had to constitutionally and statutorily enforce rules and policies that I bitterly disagree with.”
Crist also expressed frustration with the agency’s operating rules, which allow the industries that it regulates to delay and appeal against policies they don’t like.
“I have worked to change the agency and how it does business,” he said. “I have found that is next to impossible, the way that agency is designed by the Legislature.”
Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White may have an interest in replacing Crist on the PTC board, Crist said.
The fate of the proposed settlement Crist negotiated with Uber and Lyft is unsure.
The two companies agreed to stricter background checks but not to a Level II background check, which includes fingerprinting of drivers.
Instead, the proposal would mandate an annual "enhanced" Level I background check, basically a statewide criminal records search combined with a search of federal court records, state and national sex offender databases and the most-wanted lists compiled by the FBI, Interpol and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The search would go back only seven years, instead of the lifetime search that is part of a Level II background check that existing PTC rules mandate for taxicab and limo drivers.
In previous meetings, a majority of the seven-member PTC board has refused to compromise on the fingerprinting requirement, arguing that it would risk the safety of the traveling public.