TAMPA — Hillsborough County regulators are going undercover to ticket for-hire drivers they say are operating illegally, whether they drive for ride-share outlets Uber and Lyft or traditional taxi companies.
The Public Transportation Commission, which regulates for-hire vehicles, has issued about 50 tickets so far as a result of these rides, executive director Kyle Cockream said.
The undercover work began about three months ago. The undercover passengers, who are either PTC investigators or private contractors, take a ride and look for possible violations.
"We have people that are out there taking rides in Lyft and Uber, and we don't exactly want Lyft and Uber to know who those people are," Cockream said. "They're secret shoppers, for lack of a better term. We may or may not issue the citation right there on the spot."
Cockream said a majority of the undercover tickets are handed out on the spot after the ride, but some have been issued to Lyft, Uber or taxi drivers at their homes.
The PTC has been ticketing the two ride-share companies since they launched here in April. Both Lyft and Uber use smartphone apps to connect people with nearby drivers who use their own cars.
Regulators say the companies are operating illegally because they don't have the proper licensing and don't meet requirements for background checks and vehicle inspections.
Cockream said the PTC will continue to use undercover tactics as long as the board instructs him to enforce the existing laws.
In June, the commission asked local law enforcement agencies for help cracking down on ride-share companies. But both the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and the Tampa Police Department said policing these regulations is not their battle.
Contact Caitlin Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2443. Follow @cljohnst.