Orlando City Council members approved new rules for ride-sharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, following a compromise that relaxes some of the original restrictions.
Gone is the requirement that would have forced ride-sharing companies to charge more than taxis. The $3 minimum price per mile no longer applies.
“The ride sharing companies can still do their price searching/surging," Mayor Buddy Dyer said. "We thought that was a pretty fair compromise. There had been complaints that we were going to have Uber and Lyft charge 25 percent more. So this levels the playing field there.”
The city also reduced permitting fees for ride sharing drivers: from $500 to $250.
But Dyer said he is standing firm when it comes to rider safety. They want drivers to undergo proper background checks. The city will allow a third party to perform driver background checks and vehicle inspections.
City commissioners said commercial grade insurance is also required. Otherwise no permit, and the ride share driver would be considered to be operating illegally.
“Our main concern is the background checks, insurance and making sure that the vehicles that are put on the road are safe,” said Dyer.
Both ride-share drivers and taxi cab drivers are not completely happy with the ordinance.
Nathaniel Wells is a Lyft driver. He said the city hasn’t caught up to technology and that the drivers of traditional “vehicles for hire” can not expect industry protections to remain the same.
“I think Orlando right now is managing a 21st century project with 20th century methods, “ said Wells.
On the flip side, the taxi cab and limo for hire industry says the city can’t relax rules so much it becomes a form of deregulation. Cliff Wright represents the industry and said the city could and should do better regulating ride-sharing services.
“Somebody new comes in and they want to change all the rules. I think for them [the city] it’s probably a dollar issue. They see 25,000 new applicants coming in,” said Wright.
We asked Dyer why the city relaxed its position when it had been so tough on ride-sharing companies the week before. He said both ride-sharing companies were a lot more willing to negotiate in the last two weeks compared to the previous six months.
“I think part of their view was let’s just get in here, get users and the heck with the rules, “ said Dyer.
The ordinance goes into effect Feb. 1.
Lyft issued this statement:
"For months, we’ve been working closely with the City on a framework that prioritizes public safety and consumer choice. While city officials have recognized the benefits Lyft provides, they continue to push for rules that would make it extremely difficult for ridesharing to thrive, including a demand that Lyft charge artificially high rates. Imposing a minimum fare makes Lyft less affordable for riders, protects entrenched industries, and stifles competition at the expense of Orlando residents. While we appreciate the collaboration we've had with the City, we urge the Council to revisit this ordinance and continue conversations focused on crafting common-sense rules for ridesharing."
Uber issued this statement:
"Today's decision lets down the tens of thousands of people in Orlando who use Uber as their primary way to affordably and reliably move around the city, and creates major obstacles for our technology to generate new jobs.
"We have heard the voices of over 20,000 Orlando residents and visitors who called, emailed and tweeted their support for Uber to the Mayor and City Council. That's why we're committed to continue working with Mayor Dyer on recommended changes to the ordinance to put Orlando's transportation ecosystem on par with other world class cities. "