PTC chairman and Uber close to deal but approval from PTC board still doubtful
TAMPA - Public Transportation Commission Chairman Victor Crist says he and Uber are close to reaching a temporary operating agreement to keep the rideshare firm in Hillsborough County. But it still remains doubtful if that deal will pass muster from the full PTC governing board.
PTC and Uber lawyers have been in negotiations since the PTC' board earlier this month voted to move ahead with strict new rules to govern ridesharing, including mandatory fingerprinting of drivers. Uber officials have frequently warned that will lead them to stop operating in Hillsborough.
The proposed temporary operating agreement still does not include fingerprinting but does include an “enhanced” Level I background check, Crist said.
In previous meetings, however, a majority of the PTC board have refused to budge on that requirement. The agency regulates for-hire vehicles like taxicabs in Hillsborough County.
Speaking before talks resumed with Uber Wednesday morning, Crist stressed that a temporary agreement would be a stopgap measure to keep Uber and its rival Lyft in the county until state lawmakers approve a statewide regulatory framework for ridesharing.
“We’re close but we haven’t finalized anything yet,” Crist said. “The lawyers are hacking it out right now.”
An announcement on the agreement could come later today.
Crist said it would give the board the option of moving ahead with its new ridesharing rules or approving a temporary operating agreement.
The PTC agency has come under pressure from rideshare drivers and passengers who have grown accustomed to the convenience and low cost of the service over the past two years. Some Florida lawmakers who support ridesharing have accused the PTC of stifling business and innovation
But it has also faced pressure from the taxicab and limousine hire industry who want rideshare firms to adhere to the same regulations for insurance, vehicle inspections and background checks they are bound by.
Approval of a temporary operating agreement would also serve as a settlement in an ongoing legal battle now in the 2nd District Court of Appeal over whether the PTC has jurisdiction over ridesharing.