Luxury Car Service Might Warrant Deeper Look.
Miami-Dade government is looking a little less conflicted and anti-free market in the wake of press reports that the Uber luxury car service might just not be what it is all cracked up to be.
Dubbed Uber, the luxury car service links independent luxury car drivers and users via an application. The company employs no drivers or owns any cars itself, acting instead as an intermediary. Uber makes money by setting a high-end rate and charging drivers a commission. Quicker than a limousine service and higher end than a taxi service, Uber and similar companies have spread throughout the country. Based out of San Francisco, Uber’s services have spread to more than 30 cities, including New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Washington D.C., as well as numerous smaller municipalities.
In January, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson was the impetus behind an attempt to restructure the County’s regulatory stranglehold on the car-service industry, which would pave the way for services such as Uber. However, two other county commissioners, likely Bruno Barreiro and Dennis Moss put a kabosh on the early procedural move needed to make that happen.
Taxi and limousine services are opposed to the idea and have engaged numerous lobbyists to prevent the current system in Miami-Dade that limits the number of taxis and similar services countywide. Uber has simultaneously engaged lobbyists to push for access to the Miami-Dade market.
While County officials continue the debate – and supporters apparently fully intend to – some on Miami Beach have been notably supportive previously of the possibility of Uber in the region’s most important, and classy, destination of Miami Beach.
“As a city commission, we unanimously passed a non binding resolution urging the Miami-Dade County Commission to allow Uber to operate in Miami-Dade County,” Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine told SunPost in April. “Currently, Uber and other digital dispatch providers are unable to operate due to regulations that are codified as per County Ordinance. I am optimistic that the county commission will expand these transportation initiatives and provide Miami Beach residents and tourists more and better transportation alternatives.”
Commissioner Joy Malakoff agreed at the time and saw the potential for a service like Uber in Miami Beach.
“Miami Beach is a world-class residential community and tourist destination and, as such, deserves the very best,” Malakoff said. “Uber is just one example of digital dispatch providers that offer an alternative to the existing transportation options that are offered in Miami-Dade County.”
Malakoff didn’t want to comment on reports of problems with Uber and similar companies nationwide. Levine could not be reached in time for SunPost’s deadline.
However, recent media reports from around the country assert that cities, once supportive of the service, are now displeased and trying to eliminate or restrict Uber.
A recent Chicago Tribune report claimed that Uber was servicing the city’s airport, which has been exclusively the arena of cabs and limo services, and that such action by Uber illustrate unfair practices since services such as Uber are supposed to be restricted from the airport.
But Chicago isn’t the only city with issues with the service.
A local TV station in Southern California broadcast a story on Uber and discovered drivers clearly not well-screened – considering the subject-driver had a violent criminal history. The network affiliate even engaged one potential driver with a massive criminal record to apply online to be a driver for Uber – and she was accepted.
Uber claims to conduct background checks on all drivers.
The NBC broadcast affiliate in the San Francisco Bay area did a similar story on the Uber service on April 24, 2014 and cited numerous injuries related to accidents by Uber drivers. That same investigative report revealed drivers around the nation with serious criminal backgrounds and who had no insurance – something not provided by the San Francisco-based Uber. Furthermore, the story asserted that taxpayers could possibly end up footing the bill for Uber-related injuries as victims of accidents were overwhelmed with medical bills from incidents for which they were not responsible. According to Reuters, a probe was launched into some Uber drivers’ refusal to pick up individuals with service animals, such as the blind.
Two months ago, the San Francisco Examiner reported that San Francisco city officials were exploring whether or not they had the right to regulate services such as Uber in light of numerous media reports and users’ reports of problems.
Notably, Uber is not the only service of its kind and competitors have faced similar complaints.
Still, it was Uber trying to wedge its way into Miami-Dade County and which presumably is continuing the pursuit.
“For a rare time, lobbyists [for taxi and limousine services] might actually have done something good for the whole community,” quipped one Miami-Dade political insider who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I’m not sure if the entire commission has done a lot of research on the other cities where these services operate. They remind me of rich peoples’ jitneys.”
According to a Miami Herald article, Commissioner Audrey Edmonson intends to wait for a County Commission committee change to attempt a means to bring the item back for consideration.