Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Jacksonville to lead Florida in dealing with Uber's corporate terrorism?
picture by http://angieaway.com/
Jacksonville City Council Wants Uber and Lyft to Pony Up
In a move that many citizens and city council members feel is long overdue, the Jacksonville city council is planning to introduce legislation that will require ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft to go through the same permit application process as do other local transportation providers such as taxi’s and limousine services. Currently the ride-share outfits are sidestepping the permit process, claiming they are software services and as such they are not subject to the same rules and regulations as conventional taxi cab companies. The taxi companies, and many in local government, claim that the result of this quasi-legal practice is an unfair trade advantage for the ride–share organizations because they do not have to pay the significant fees required to obtain and maintain the permits. Another issues often associated with Uber and other similar companies is that they are not currently required to perform the same level of background screening that the traditional transportation providers are subject to when applying for the permit. Proponents of the new legislation claim that this results in both an unfair business advantage for the ride-share companies but also poses a significant public safety risk because the drivers for the ride-share companies often have been found to be employing felons; burglars, rapists, child molesters and even murderers have been alleged to be in the employ of Uber.
Jacksonville City Councilman Stephen Joost recently announced that he plans to introduce new legislation that would give the city the power to impound unregulated vehicles using the Uber or Lyft software apps. The proposed new regulations would also allow the city to seize the vehicles of repeat offenders. Joost said the more stringent sanctions are what is necessary to motivate the drivers of ride-share cars to follow city laws.
These companies, with “ride share” models that allow people to arrange and pay for transportation with their smart phones, have come under increasing scrutiny in recent months for employing drivers who have not been screened for criminal backgrounds and also not permitted or regulated by the city of Jacksonville..
City Council members and citizens alike say the unregulated vehicles pose a safety risk. They’ve also accused Uber of going back on an assurance made last year to not bring its unregulated driving service to Jacksonville. There are currently well over 100 Uber drivers operating in the Jacksonville area, some sources claim as many as 500.
Lyft and Uber spokespeople insist that they provide a popular and innovative service to a willing market among the residents of Jacksonville. They say their services may differ somewhat from traditional taxi operations but they insist that their new model can be implemented in a manner that takes all necessary safety precautions and screens and insures their drivers.
In a recent email, Taylor Bennett, an official Uber spokesperson was quoted as saying “If the council’s true concern were safety, then it would embrace Uber for being the safest ride on the road. Instead, this proposal is nothing but an attempt to stifle free market competition on behalf of special interests, which have over time increasingly failed to innovate and meet consumer demand.”
Uber first appeared on the scene in Jacksonville in 2013, and began allowing travelers to arrange high-end rides with local transportation companies through a cell phone app and arrange for payment with a credit card kept on file in a database maintained by Uber.
In an effort to be fair to both sides of the ride-sharing issues, the city of Jacksonville changed its vehicle-for-hire regulations to accommodate the high end lxury ride-sharing service, which the company calls UberBlack. In return for this concession, Uber promised the city it wouldn’t introduce its lower-cost uberX service to Jacksonville. As it has done in cities across the nation, and around the world , Uber has reneged on it’s promise and thumbed it’s nose at local government.
As with UberBlack, passengers can order uberX rides through their phones and do not need to pay with cash. But the drivers typically own their vehicles and they tend to be part-time drivers who pick up passengers to earn extra money..
Local police conducted an undercover operation during an august Jaguars and issued civil citations to both uberX and Lyft drivers. A judge is expected issue a ruling on those cases next week. The city also issues citations to the companies each time a driver receives a violation. Each violation can result in a fine of up to $500.
Both Uber and Lyft pay their drivers’ fines, companies consider the fines as a cost of doing business and this concerns councilmen Joost and Lumb because the policy of these companies is accepting illegal behavior as part of their operating model.
Joost said his legislation would provide increased motivation for prospective Uber and Lyft drivers to get permits if they knew their vehicles could be impounded and the could be charged with criminal violation of misdemeanor, if they didn’t. start to comply with local laws
It is becoming increasingly clear that local governments around the country are beginning to see through Ubers “tell them what they want to hear” policy of making promises they never intend to keep, and to routinely breaking civil ordinances and pay the resulting penalties as a normal part of doing businesses.