Local taxi owners are voicing their concerns about the new ride-sharing service that came to town this August.
In their stance against Uber, the ride-sharing service, Gainesville companies like AA Taxi, Gainesville Cab Company and G Taxi expressed feelings of injustice in front of the Gainesville City Commission on Sept. 22. One of the main discussion points being regulations.
Unlike Uber, which operates through a smartphone application and does not require its drivers to carry permits and identification badges, taxi franchises in Gainesville are subject to a long list of regulations under the Gainesville Code of Ordinances Chapter 28 VFH (Vehicles for Hire).
Edwin Ricci, owner of AA Taxi, said the city is allowing Uber to operate its business contrary to the official rules and regulations in Gainesville.
Every year, Ricci has to purchase a $200-permit for pick-up services at the Gainesville Regional Airport, pay about $3,500 in insurance for each of his taxi vehicles and renew his franchise.
Uber, on the other hand, does not.
“My interest is the middle ground,” Ricci said. “Fairness is what I seek.”
Freddy Maldonado, owner of G Taxi, said if someone wanted to start a vehicle-for-hire business, they would have to follow the rules the city and the police department have established.
Jackie Hallowell, a dispatcher for Gainesville Cab Company, said even though she thinks Uber’s method of operating via a smartphone application is a great idea, she also wants the company to comply with the current rules and regulations.
“Make them have the same colored cars. Make them have to go to the Gainesville Police Department to give them their identifications and background checks,” Hallowell said. “It’s only the fair thing to do.”
But regulating Uber is more complex than that.
“Uber is coming in and bringing in an era of vehicle-for-hire that we had not prepared for,” Gainesville Police Department spokesman Ben Tobias said. “Our laws are antiquated, but we’re working very closely with the city commission to figure out what direction we want to go.”
Ultimately, the decision is up to the city commission on whether the law gets changed or not.
While fairness is the main issue at hand, the lack of regulation has also raised questions in terms of security.
According to the Uber Blog under Uber Background Checks, “all Uber ride-sharing and livery partners must go through a rigorous background check” and a “three-step screening,” which will “go back 7 years.”
However, Shaun Bossart, a Gainesville Cab Company taxi driver, said he has heard rumors that Uber does not conduct background checks or screenings.
“The dangers outweigh the risks,” Bossart said. “You’re getting into a car knowing nothing about the driver.”
Although Ricci does not see Uber impacting his business for another 10 years, if the lack of regulation were to continue, he still wants the city commission to take action.
“My first request [for the city commission] is for a timetable so that we can see what steps they are making and how expedient they’re making those steps,” he said. “Then we actually have to get into the details of how we’re going to fix this problem.”