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Stage set for battle on city Uber regulations

As the city continues its attempt to update regulations on vehicles-for-hire, Uber is warning that a staff-endorsed ordinance would prevent the service from operating in Sarasota.

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  • | 2:00 p.m. September 8, 2015
Uber has encouraged users to speak out against the proposed city ordinance at today's meeting.
Uber has encouraged users to speak out against the proposed city ordinance at today's meeting.
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At tonight’s City Commission meeting, the board will once again discuss regulations that could impact the future of Uber and similar transportation companies in Sarasota.

Following the arrival of “transportation network companies” such as Uber and Lyft in Sarasota late last year, the city has been working to update its rules to address the popular app-based services. Under a proposed ordinance, the city would enforce new standards for TNCs — regarding things such as background checks, vehicle inspections and insurance — as it does for other vehicles-for-hire, such as taxis.

Continuing its discussion from previous meetings, the City Commission is set to vote on that ordinance today, though it is subject to revision pending the board’s direction.

In advance of today’s meeting, Uber sent an email to Sarasota customers warning that the proposed ordinance could “potentially shut out” the service from the city. Uber says it supports the idea of regulation, and submitted a series of proposed revisions to the city’s ordinance — a topic that will be considered by the city this evening.

Two of the largest changes requested by Uber pertain to licensing and insurance. Uber is arguing in favor of a regulation that allows a driver to obtain authorization to operate from a permitted TNC, rather than directly through the city itself. Another proposed revision would stipulate that drivers only need liability insurance while they are performing a commercial service.

In an email to the commission Sunday, City Attorney Robert Fournier said he was under the impression that Parking Manager Mark Lyons is not in favor of the changes proposed by Uber. He also said he believes that Uber is unlikely to pick up passengers in the city if the ordinance penned by staff is passed as written.

During tonight’s meeting, Fournier said, he will outline the differences between the staff-written ordinance and the proposed revisions suggested by Uber. Any decision on the final wording of the ordinance is up to the whims of the commission, Fournier said.


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