Tampa Bay is just one step away from being the latest county in the United States to mandate additional background checks for ridesharing drivers. According to a report from the Tampa Bay Business Journal, the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission is nearing a vote that would further regulate companies like Uber and Lyft. Among the pending requirements are fingerprint background checks for all drivers—the same regulation that has caused Uber and Lyft to abandon several cities throughout the country.
Background checks aren't the only regulation that could be coming down the pipeline toward ridesharing businesses. The Public Transportation Commission wants vehicle inspections of all cars used for ridesharing purposes as well as minimum wait times and fares. The commission is thinking about imposing a "maximum driver limit" for each ridesharing company, a regulation that would aim to bar companies like Uber and Lyft from becoming monopolistic in the area.
Administrators believe that these regulations are in the interest of public safety. Currently, Uber and Lyft use drivers' names and birthdates to process background checks. The Public Transportation Commission claims that adding fingerprints would help detect criminal backgrounds and keep predators and dangerous drivers off the roads and away from potential victims. Uber and Lyft have customarily argued that fingerprint background checks have a disproportionate impact on minorities. The companies contend that such background checks also aren't entirely fair because they often detect arrest histories rather than just returning conviction histories.
Uber has promised to leave the Tampa Bay area if these new regulations are imposed upon Hillsborough County ridesharing operations. Lyft has not provided a statement.
Residents who want to keep Uber and Lyft in the Tampa Bay area are fighting back against the Public Transportation Commission. There is currently a petition on Change.org urging local elected officials to "Save Uber & Lyft in Tampa!" The petition is directed toward the members of the PTC as well as Bob Buckhorn, the mayor of Tampa. The petition's author is encouraging officials to "stop feeding into special interests and ruining our access to ridesharing services in Hillsborough County." Currently, the petition has more than 800 signatures.
The petition doesn't mention fingerprint background checks, which have historically been a sticking point for Uber and Lyft. Rather, the petition takes issue with the minimum fare and minimum wait time regulations. "It's clear that you are not acting in a public safety role but rather attempting to 'level the playing field' for limo/taxi special interests," the petition's author accuses. The suggestion is that the PTC is forcing ridesharing companies to reduce the economical nature and overall quality of their services so that other transportation companies in the area can stay competitive.
The PTC's impending vote will determine the future of ridesharing services in the Tampa Bay area.