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Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Sep. 9, 2015 5 years ago

City to deregulate Uber and taxi services

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by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

A standing-room-only crowd packed the Sarasota City Commission Chambers last night, with many in the audience eager to voice an opinion on the city’s proposed ordinance regulating companies such as Uber.

More than 40 individuals signed up to speak during the public comment portion of the city’s discussion. They never got a chance to say what was on their minds.

In a unanimous decision, the City Commission decided to discard the proposed ordinance. Instead, the board chose to end its regulation of all vehicles-for-hire, including traditional taxi services.

“We shouldn’t be defending the taxicabs against their competitors,” Vice Mayor Suzanne Atwell said. “What happens is, you get into the territory of over-regulating and legislating the market. That’s not what we should be doing.”

In making its decision, the board pointed to a lack of regulations in other jurisdictions and the potential for statewide legislation regarding transportation network companies such as Uber. Multiple commissioners said they believe the app-based service is valuable for creating part-time employment opportunities for drivers.

The city came into the meeting at a crossroads — staff was supportive of more stringent regulations than Uber favored, and Uber threatened to pull out of the city if those regulations were passed.

Although Parking Manager Mark Lyons was in favor of stronger background checks, insurance requirements and vehicle standards relative to what Uber has in place, the City Commission generally expressed a feeling that the industry would simply regulate itself.

“If they don’t have these things, they’re going to be out of business,” Commissioner Liz Alpert said.

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