Uber Allowed to Operate in Palm Beach Temporarily

The fight to make Uber legit in Palm Beach went to a vote today, commissioners agreed to allow the ride-sharing service to operate temporarily -- something the Chamber of Commerce urged them to do as well.

At issue during Tuesday's vote, as it has been from the beginning, is if and how the county would force Uber to operate under the same regulations as cab companies. There is also the matter of insurance.

The issue remains a contentious one, even among commissioners, who barely gave Uber permission to temporarily operate with a 4-3 vote.

For its part, Uber sent an email to supporters urging them to come out to the vote to show the commissioners their support for the ride-sharing company. Uber is now allowed to operate until September 30.

"Today's step marks a victory for Palm Beach County riders and drivers," Kaitlin Durkosh of Uber Technologies via an email statement to New Times. "The County Commission has demonstrated to the rest of the state that it stands for innovation and supports choice and opportunity. We look forward to continuing to work with the Commission to find a long-term solution for ride-sharing in Palm Beach County."

Still, opponents continue to decry Uber's manner of operation. They insist that Uber is putting riders at risk by not operating under county regulations. Yet many consumers remain faithful, swearing by the convenience, cleanliness, and pricing that Uber offers.

So why should people care about regulations and laws?

"Some people view Uber as a cool transportation option, but that doesn't negate the fact that they are largely operating without regulations designed to keep consumers safe," Walter Dartland, executive director of the Consumer Federation of the Southeast, tells New Times. "Such regulations as background checks, insurance coverage, and vehicle maintenance requirements aren't unnecessary red tape -- they are practical policies designed first and foremost to keep the public safe."

Dartland, a longtime consumer advocate who started the website UberNightmare, says fair competition should be something people care about. His overall message is that it's dangerous to just ignore the risk consumers face from unregulated service providers like Uber.

Since Uber has planted its flag in Broward and Palm Beach, taxicab drivers have been complaining about a lack of a level playing field.

Last week, Dennis Grady, CEO of the Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce, sent Commissioner Steve Abrams a letter asking commissioners to find a temporary solution and negotiate with Uber.

In his letter, Grady cited 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.

Meanwhile, legislators are considering two bills that would allow Uber to operate statewide.

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph