The Orlando taxi companies, as well as local government, have developed a lot of angst with Uber and Lyft in a very brief period of time. City leaders are now designing a plan that, in their opinion, levels the playing field among those who transport passengers.
The first thing Orlando will do is create a new category for these ride-sharing businesses. The second thing, of course, is additional fees and costs. The city will require these drivers to obtain (translation: buy) permits for both city driving and use of the airport. They will also have to undergo background checks, submit to vehicle inspection, and carry commercial liability coverage.
At least some of the taxi/ride-sharing drivers shouldn’t be too bothered by this since they offer both services. That is, unless the city requires them to have separate permits for each service, inspections, etc. No word yet from Orlando on this.
The thing that will most hurt riders is the dramatic increase in rates charged to customers. The city is not content that Uber/Lyft only charge the same as the taxi services. No, they want these startups to pay 25% more. In dollar terms, the city taxis charge $2.40 per mile. The ride-sharing companies would have to price their service at $3.00 per mile.
Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer said the motivation for changing this policy was because the taxi services were operating at a disadvantage. He pointed out that in addition to the same fees the city wants to charge to ride-sharing drivers, the city-regulated taxis must also maintain 10% of its fleet as handicapped accessible, must have a local dispatch center, and must take every call.
And Mayor Dyer said something else noteworthy. He added that his primary concern is “safety.” Maybe not a big thing standing by itself but coincidentally, New York’s mayor just said the same thing after beginning legal proceedings against Airbnb. Sorry, call me a cynic but whenever these city mayors talk about the importance of safety, there is always a discussion about fees, costs, and taxes that follows.
This is not yet the law in Orlando. There will be city hearings and Uber/Lyft will be able to present their side. Just like in the New York case against Airbnb, you can bet many cities around the country will be interested to see how this plays out.