The National Federation of the Blind is currently suing Uber for discrimination because they have denied or interfered with blind people who use guide dogs in the access of their services. Uber contends they are not a transportation company; rather, they assert, they are a technology company. Here is a decision by the Hillsborough County (Tampa, Fla.) concerning another ride-sharing service similar to Uber.
Marion Gwizdala, President
Hearing officer confirms Lyft acts as taxi company. By Steve Contorno Times Staff Writer
TAMPA For all intents and purposes, Lyft is a taxi company, and it violated Hillsborough County rules by operating without proper permits. That’s the ruling from county hearing officer Susan More , who upheld a $200 citation against the ride-sharing company issued in December. In her ruling Monday, More said police witnessed a driver using a cellphone with Lyft software that “calculated distance and fare, which, in essence, serves as a taximeter. “Although the vehicle involved in the citation was not an actual taxicab, it was functioning in the same capacity,” More wrote. Lyft asserted during the hearing that it was not a transportation-for-hire company because it did not own cars. Lyft has said it’s a technology company that helps connect passengers and drivers. More rejected that argument. She said approving the drivers, completing background checks and providing commercial liability insurance “demonstrate an involvement by Lyft in the causing or allowing of the operation of a public vehicle without a permit. The hearing pertained to just one citation, but the county and Lyft agreed in advance that the ruling would apply to 38 other tickets issued last year. Ride-sharing has become a controversial issue for state and local governments around the country. Users enjoy the ease of ordering and paying for a ride on their phones without the hassle of cash or credit. But regulators worry drivers are not properly vetted or certified, and that the rate flexibility ride-sharing companies enjoy is not afforded to taxicabs. The Hillsborough County Commission is weighing how to balance those competing concerns. In the meantime, Uber and Lyft aren’t supposed to operate here. On Tuesday, Uber asked its Florida customers to sign a petition asking lawmakers to enact a law in the upcoming special session allowing ride-sharing. Lyft can appeal the results of the hearing to the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission board and then to the 2nd District Court of Appeal. In addition to the fine, the company was ordered to pay a $400 hearing fee.