Friday, December 15, 2017
Transportation

Regulatory agency seeks help in crackdown against Uber, Lyft

TAMPA — In its crackdown on the increasingly popular but unregulated Uber and Lyft ride-sharing programs, the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission agreed Wednesday to ask other law enforcement agencies for help.

The two outfits have operated in Tampa for several months now, causing friction with the transportation commission and the taxi and limousine industries, which say the companies are in violation of state laws and local regulations. Uber and Lyft don't carry the proper insurance and aren't certified, they say.

Uber and Lyft allow customers to request a ride via smartphone apps from drivers who aren't required to have the same costly licenses and permits required of taxi drivers. Their websites tout that they are a cheaper option than taxis and don't rely on the same meter system.

So far, PTC inspectors have fined 12 drivers and issued 44 tickets that come with fines ranging from $100 to $500.

But at least two local law enforcement agencies that will soon be formally asked to help the PTC say that policing these regulations is not their battle.

Tampa Police Department spokeswoman Andrea Davis said the issue does not involve the police agency and directed a reporter to speak instead with City Attorney Julia Mandell.

"I don't believe that TPD has the authority to issue citations," Mandell said. "It's kind of like having TPD go out and be code enforcers. It's a civil process, not a criminal process."

The transportation commission, along with its executive director and chief inspector, disagree.

"For them to say it's a civil matter, no, it's not," Chief Inspector Mario Tamargo said. "When you start saying you're not going to enforce it, that it's not part of your job, that's not true."

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokesman Larry McKinnon said deputies are not currently targeting Lyft or Uber and have not been involved in enforcing PTC regulations.

"We're going to enforce the traffic laws just like we do with anyone else, but as far as the regulatory laws, those are things we have not been brought into in the past," McKinnon said. "Whether we get into it in the future, we'll have to review that letter and see what they request of us."

According to Florida law that lays out the rules of the PTC, "any person who violates or fails to comply with … any provision of this act or any rules adopted in accordance with this act is guilty of a criminal offense and misdemeanor." The law also states that any law enforcement agencies operating within the county are responsible for the enforcement of PTC special acts.

"When you look at the state statues and the enacting legislation, the PTC is a legislative body just like a city council and a county commission," said PTC Chairman Victor Crist, who is also a Hillsborough County commissioner.

"And when we legislate rules, they become laws. And the laws are to be upheld by law enforcement and by the courts."

Mandell, based on her reading of the law, said it seems PTC would first have to go through the citation process before Tampa police or any enforcement mechanism would come into play.

"It was always their feeling, and my feeling as well, that this is a regulatory process that needs to be gone through, as opposed to being an individual violation directly of Florida statue," Mandell said.

While the transportation commission held its meeting Wednesday morning, more than 30,000 taxi and limo drivers in Europe led demonstrations protesting Uber and asking for tougher regulations against the company. Last week, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles sent a cease-and-desist letter to both companies, banning them from the state.

Both McKinnon and Mandell said the agencies first need to see the specific written request from the transportation commission. Once the letter is received, they said, further conversations will determine what role, if any, local law enforcement will play in the crackdown.

Caitlin Johnston can be reached at [email protected] and (813) 661-2443.

Comments
Dr. Delay: St. Petersburg road projects for bikes and wastewater

Dr. Delay: St. Petersburg road projects for bikes and wastewater

What is the city of St. Petersburg doing on First Avenue S between Pa sadena Avenue and Park Street? They have installed a concrete bumper in the middle of the road for some reason. Also on Ninth Avenue N, they are installing something from 71st Stre...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Express lanes set to open on Veterans. They’re free -- for now.

Express lanes set to open on Veterans. They’re free -- for now.

TAMPA — Drivers on the Veterans Expressway will gain an extra lane from Gunn Highway to Hillsborough Avenue starting Saturday.But there’s a catch: Once drivers enter the lane, they won’t be able to leave it — not until a designated exit about six mil...
Published: 12/08/17
Pasco group picks untried intersection design to ease U.S. 41/SR 54 congestion

Pasco group picks untried intersection design to ease U.S. 41/SR 54 congestion

LAND O’LAKES – A citizens group says a better way to move vehicles along a congested central Pasco corridor could involve a never-been-tried intersection design that diverts turning traffic onto parallel frontage roads.The citizens group, known as th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Northbound Sunshine Skyway lanes to close for running event in March

Northbound Sunshine Skyway lanes to close for running event in March

ST. PETERSBURG — The Sunshine Skyway bridge will shut down on a Sunday morning in March for a running race that is expected to draw up to 7,000 participants.The Armed Forces Families Foundation announced the event, dubbed the "Skyway 10k Saluting Mil...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17
Dr. Delay: Confusing striping at Ulmerton and Roosevelt is temporary

Dr. Delay: Confusing striping at Ulmerton and Roosevelt is temporary

Heading east where Roosevelt Boulevard joins Ulmerton Road, the inside lane of Roosevelt is confusing where the roads merge. If a driver uses the lane striping on their right as their guide, they are in one lane, and if they stay to the left, they ar...
Published: 12/05/17
Today: Pasco, Hernando residents can meet on transportation

Today: Pasco, Hernando residents can meet on transportation

Pasco and Hernando residents will get to find out what transportation projects are in the works for their communities on Tuesday evening.PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Long-awaited Tampa Bay transit study identifies five corridors for future transportation syste...
Published: 12/05/17

Workers to drill under Gandy Boulevard, partially closing lane Monday through Friday

TAMPA — An eastbound lane on West Gandy Boulevard at Church Avenue will partially close from Monday through Friday for drilling related to the Selmon Extension.Workers will use a geotechnical drill to examine the soil under the road, according to pro...
Published: 12/02/17
St. Petersburg to replace 40th Avenue Bridge; cones stay in the meantime

St. Petersburg to replace 40th Avenue Bridge; cones stay in the meantime

ST. PETERSBURG — Those traversing the 40th Avenue Bridge, the main span connecting Shore Acres and Venetian Isles with the Old Northeast and Northeast Park neighborhoods, can expect to see orange cones barricading the center of the bridge for t...
Updated one month ago
Dr. Delay: Signal timing meant to move traffic, not frustrate drivers, county says

Dr. Delay: Signal timing meant to move traffic, not frustrate drivers, county says

What is going on with the traffic lights on 66th Street? The way they are timed could be causing road rage.Going either north or south on 66th from 102nd Avenue N to 54th Avenue N, it used to work like this: The light would stop both lanes, those tra...
Updated one month ago
Dr. Delay: Pinellas traffic officials to tweak signals near Largo Mall

Dr. Delay: Pinellas traffic officials to tweak signals near Largo Mall

The Largo Mall entrance stoplight on Ulmerton Road just east of Seminole Boulevard has been causing traffic delays on eastbound Ulmerton at Seminole Boulevard. It appears that the light at the Largo Mall entrance is being triggered on-demand by folks...
Updated one month ago