Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Popular private-driver service Uber runs into friction with local regulators

TAMPA — While Republican National Convention delegates decry excess governmental regulation, a case study is unfolding outside: a dispute between Hillsborough County regulators and a techie taxi startup in town for the convention.

Uber, a popular private-driver service based in San Francisco, recently unveiled its Tampa operation, offering its signature GPS-tracked sedans with text-message updates, hailed via smartphone app.

What the company can't offer? Low prices. Hillsborough County regulations set Uber's minimum fare at $50, three times as pricey as the service's minimum fare in New York City, London, Paris or practically anywhere else.

Uber fans and urbanites took to Twitter to decry the cost as a deal-breaker.

But the company redirected rage to the county's unbending rules for local limo drivers, which set drivers' minimum fares much higher to separate them from cabs. Uber contracts with local drivers, installing hardware, giving them business and taking a cut of the fare.

Hillsborough's rule was pushed by the local limousine industry, which argued higher minimum fares helped net its drivers more money, County Public Transportation Commission Chief Inspector Mario Tamargo said.

"You know all the hell we caught from the cab drivers not getting any work," Tamargo said. As for local limo drivers, they're "fine with it. They like it that way."

Uber's drivers, who will cover Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention for a $20 minimum fare, will likely see business dry up due to the rules, said Rachel Holt, the general manager of Uber's D.C. operation. Customers, she said, will lose out as well.

"Any time you have a minimum fare, there's one group of constituents who's going to lose, and that's consumers," Holt said. "There is an important role for regulations, and that's protecting the public … not blocking competition."

Holt said she met twice with the commission, which wouldn't budge. Uber's website, in explaining its attempts to reduce the fare, says, "Tampa regulators weren't interested."

Uber will close its local "pop-up shop" after the convention, and its future here is uncertain. Holt said the startup's "disappointing and frustrating experience" with county regulators had dissuaded the company from coming back.

"We're not going to go into a place," Holt said, "where we don't think we can do everything we can for consumers and drivers."

Drew Harwell can be reached at (727) 893-8252 or

Popular private-driver service Uber runs into friction with local regulators 08/28/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 6:48am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Romano: Sewage is the issue in this mayoral race

    Local Government

    Well, poop.

    Nothing else really matters, does it?

    Schools, economic development, public safety? Pfft. The Rays stadium, affordable housing, the Pier? Ack. When it comes to the St. Petersburg mayoral election, sewage is the yin, the yang and the yuck.

    During the St. Petersburg sewage crisis, the city's ancient sewer system released about 200 million gallons of sewage into local watersways, spurring state and federal investigations and becoming a focal point of debate among the leading mayoral candidates. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  2. Shooting sends man to hospital in St. Pete


    ST. PETERSBURG — Police were investigating a shooting that occurred around 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday and sent a man to the hospital.

  3. Police: Man tries to lure child with puppy in Polk County


    Times staff

    HAINES CITY — A man was arrested Sunday after he tried to entice a young girl into his camper to view a puppy, according to police.

    Dale Collins, 63, faces a charge of luring or enticing a child under the age of 12. [Photo courtesy of the Polk County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Scaramucci on leaks: 'I'm going to fire everybody'


    WASHINGTON — Anthony Scaramucci, President Donald Trump's new communications director, vowed Tuesday to purge the White House staff of disloyal aides in an effort to crack down on leaks, as another member of the press staff resigned from a West Wing reeling from an unfolding shake-up.

  5. Editorial: Coming together to reduce car thefts


    The simple, knee-jerk response to the juvenile car theft epidemic in Pinellas County would be to crack down on offenders with an increased police presence and stiffer sentences. Thankfully, local community leaders did not stop there. As detailed in a recent Tampa Bay Times follow-up to its 
As detailed in a recent Tampa Bay Times follow-up to its "Hot Wheels" investigation into youth car thefts, a variety of ideas from multiple directions increases the odds of actually solving the cause and not just treating the symptoms.