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Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Legislators file bills to abolish Hillsborough PTC

30

October

The push to eliminate the Hillsborough County agency that regulates for-hire vehicle companies, such as taxicab, limousine and ambulance operators, is on.

A pair of state legislators have confirmed that they have submitted a local bill that would allow the voters to abolish the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.

"The Public Transporation Commission has evolved from an agency designed to preserve public safety into an agency that is preventing competition in the market and restricting consumer choice," said Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, who has filed legislation on the House side.

Added Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg: "I have come to believe that the PTC is no longer serving the needs of our community and is placing burdensome restrictions on small businesses that seek to provide transportation options in our region. The transportation marketplace is rapidly changing and the antiquated institution of the PTC is not suited for the dynamic opportunities which lie ahead."

According to a joint news release, if the bill passes both chambers and is signed by the governor, it would create a local referendum on the question of whether to abolish the PTC.

The PTC was created by the legislature in 1976 to regulate taxis, limos, ambulances and wreckers, and has been the source of repeated bits of controversy through the years. It's most recent director resigned after reports in the Tampa Bay Times that he was moonlighting while records show he was on the PTC clock or had called in sick. Former Hillsborough County commissioner Kevin White is in prison for accepting bribes in his capacity as chairman of the PTC.

Current PTC chairman and county commissioner Victor Crist has been a vocal critic of how the agency has been run but has nevertheless defended its purpose and asked legislators to give him time to fix the troubled agency. Among other things, the PTC conducts criminal background checks on drivers and inspections on for-hire vehicles, performing an important consumer protection, Crist has said.

Crist was traveling out of town and could not be reached.

The agency has faced repeated criticism through the years as mainly serving to prevent new companies from getting into the market to compete with existing permit holders, regardless of the type of for-hire vehicle. Recently, the company Uber has rallied supporters who say the web-based application developer that enables people to book cabs, limos and other cars for hire by their phone or computer has been blocked from entering the market due to the PTC.

[Last modified: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 11:58am]

    

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