Thursday, November 20, 2014

To Uber or Not to Uber That's the Question



Uber and Lyft, are ride-sharing companies that provide an alternative to taxi cabs. Both companies use a high tech model that allows customers to order a ride using a smart phone AP.

Customers see a picture of the driver, a rating from other riders, and via GPS can watch the progress of the ride as it approaches. The customer can reject a proposed ride and ask for an alternative.

The rate is calculated at $1.20 a mile and 13 cents a minute and the ride fee is processed through the rider's smart phone.

The issue created a firestorm in Tampa as the local taxi cab companies cried foul, and the City struggled with issues like licensing, and passenger safety.

If you would like to know more about how these ride sharing companies work you can check out an article in the Tampa Bay Times by Caitlin Johnson 10 things to understand about Lyft and Uber.

The question is now moving to St. Petersburg as the City begins to work on an Ordinance dealing with ride-sharing companies. Janelle Irwin has a good overview in stpetersblog St. Pete to consider ordinance making way for Uber and Lyft.

The ride-sharing companies are already providing some service in St. Pete so timely action is critical.

With St. Pete in hot pursuit of millennials and a vibrant central core, services like Uber and Lyft are essential to support the life style. These services, which will provide low cost transport between venues in the downtown area, are also essential to the continuing downtown development and expansion to the West.

Some are now thinking that ride-sharing may be a critical component to public transportation. Given the recent GreenLight results it looks like it will be a while before the public transportation is changed or fixed on a large scale.

City Council would be wise to listen to the Cab companies, regarding safety concerns and licensing. Cabbie concerns about competition are really irrelevant. Competition is competition and the Cab companies need to figure out how to compete.

The other pitfall to avoid is looking at ride-sharing as a municipal cash cow.

The real benefits of ride-sharing are not only low fares but easy access which may keep some cars at home and some drivers that should not be driving off the road. A significant level of regulation or licensing costs will defeat the purpose.

Let's not let ride-sharing get bogged down by the entrenched interests like the food truck thing did with hearings, meetings, reports and the ever popular consultants.

This is a simple issue with any number of municipalities already addressing the issue. We don't need to re-invent the "wheel" let's just get a good common sense Ordinance on the books and move forward.

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