Since the car service Uber began operating in Palm Beach in August, county commissioners have been working on details to regulate the ride-sharing service, two bills have been introduced in the state legislature to legalize it, local cab drivers have been expressing their frustration over it, and at least two county officials have accused Uber of shutting down their accounts on purpose.
Meanwhile, Uber drivers have been operating illegally, and being fined any time an official finds them. But now the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce is officially backing Uber's presence in the county, and have written a formal letter to commissioner Steve Abrams asking the commissioners to enact a temporary agreement with Uber while regulations re developed.
Since launching the service back in August, Uber has been told by the county that it was in violation of Palm Beach County's vehicle-for-hire rules. Cabdrivers and other chauffeur services must pass inspections twice a year as well as undergo background checks and have additional insurance.
Uber and its drivers are not licensed to operate in the county. This is a violation.
But Dennis Grady, CEO of the Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce, sent Commissioner Abrams a letter asking the commissioners to find a temporary solution and negoiate with Uber.
Grady cites the financial gain that the county has seen over Uber operating there, as well as the ride sharing service's popularity with residents.
"[Uber] has connected hundreds of thousands of local people residing in and visiting our community with safe and reliable rides," part of the letter reads.
Grady also goes on to mention how Palm Beach County has a limited amount of transportation options, and emphasized how Uber's app is a convenient and safe way for residents to get a quick ride right when they need it. Grady calls the app innovative, and says it's a technology that is "providing unprecedented economic opportunities for our communities."
Grady also cites Uber's own background checking regulations.
Uber's stance has always been that it operates differently than cab companies. The ride-sharing service, which is worth billions, says that it doesn't own the vehicles or employ drivers, but only links them to people with the Uber app.
The county has been fining Uber drivers $500 for these violations, but the company has vowed to reimburse its drivers.
A court was going to eventually decide if Uber should shut down operations and move out of Palm Beach altogether, but county commissioners stepped in at the last minute and agreed to try to figure out a compromise with Uber. That was in early February and there's been little movement since. Hence, Grady's letter calling on the county to find a temporary solution.
Uber has said that it will work with the commissioners to develop a proper ordinance. But some local cab drivers, whose business is threatened by the ride-sharing service, have expressed frustration over Uber's practices, particularly where insurance is concerned. Some have accused the company of being shady with how it insures its drivers.
"We're definitely committed to providing the safest rides for our drivers and customers," Kasra Moshkani, General Manager for Uber in South Florida, told New Times. "In addition to background checks, we provide insurance to drivers. From the moment a rider is matched, Uber provides $1 million in coverage to the driver."
You can read the full letter from Grady below: