On Tuesday, nearly a month after Broward County ordered ride share companies Uber and Lyft to cease operations until their drivers complied with county taxi laws and transportation regulations, county commissioners voted to regulate the companies and to come up with a set of rules to do just that.
The vote went down during a spirited commission meeting that saw people from both traditional cabs and Uber step up and plead their case to the commissioners. A day before that meeting, cab companies sent the commissioners a letter asking the city to level the playing field when it comes to regulations. Even after being asked to stop operations by the city last month, Uber continued to do business in Broward, which irked cab drivers who are held to strict regulations.
Uber says it will work with the commissioners in the next sixty days to put down a proper ordinance. But some cab drivers remain upset over the company's practices, while the issue itself has turned heated even for customers.
Last year, New Times reported on how cab drivers not only expressed concern for county regulations not being enforced, but also with the way Uber runs their insurance.
For some time now, rumors have swirled that Uber has, in some cases, specifically told its drivers not to get insurance.
"UberX has regular passenger insurance, taking 20 percent from the driver," Palm Beach cab driver Jennifer Condie told New Times. "But they basically tell drivers not to get insurance, to put it on your personal insurance. But you can't put others on your insurance."
A Chicago-based cabdriver working with Uber, who goes only by the name Joe, told New Times that Uber held a meeting of taxi drivers in his area last year where they told drivers that the company does not allow commercial insurance. "I'm sitting in this meeting and they're saying this to us, and I couldn't believe it," Joe says.
In San Francisco, an assistant district attorney told regulators that drivers who were using ridesharing companies such as Uber were committing insurance fraud.
In response, Uber tells New Times that the company offers $1 million of liability coverage per incident.
"We're definitely committed to providing the safest rides for our drivers and customers," Kasra Moshkani, General Manager for Uber in South Florida, tells 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."
Still, the concerns from cab drivers are often confirmed by what they deem shady practices by Uber, such as the company supposedly telling drivers not to get insurance, and other factors.
Recently, a Twitter account called Truth About Uber tweeted out a supposed memo from Uber to South Florida drivers how to avoid getting caught operating during the cease and desist order.
— Truth (@TruthAboutUber) January 11, 2015
Moshkani has not returned messages to New Times to comment on the tweet.
Still, the community seems to be favoring having Uber while drivers themselves seem to be happy with working for Uber
"I agree that the playing field should be leveled," Uber driver Gina Savage tells New Times. "But we do not live in a dictatorship. The one taxi driver that spoke at the commission meeting said that this is his bread-and-butter, but it's no different then the Uber drivers that drive full-time and consider it their bread-and-butter."
Savage, who has been driving for Uber for six weeks, says that tourists she's given rides to have told her they were never going to hire out a cab to get around again.
"Mostly these riders are women who are clearly afraid of the nasty attitude they get from cab drivers," she says. "They are afraid of calling the cap company and asking if they take credit cards, only to find out at the end of the ride that the driver refused their credit card and insisted they go to an ATM."
For now, it appears that Uber will finally get some regulations placed on them.
A similar ruling in Fargo, North Dakota, this week, saw city commissioners voting to eliminate taxi regulations in order to adopt newer ones.
The laws would not allow big increases in fares during periods of high demand and would also require each company to have at least one vehicle available for service 24/7 anywhere in the city.
Ride-hailing companies would have to change how they do business to enter the Fargo market.
We'll have to wait and see whether or not the regulatory framework Broward Commissioners are working on will be similar to the one in Fargo. Meanwhile, the war between ride sharing companies and local taxi companies is, at least for now, not over.
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