Miami Beach Commissioners Want to Cap Uber and Lyft Cars

Last month, New York became the first city in the nation to impose a cap on the number of for-hire vehicles on its streets, barring companies such as Uber and Lyft from adding more cars in a move fought hard by both companies. In a separate measure that also drew the companies' ire, the city council voted to set a $15 minimum wage for drivers.

Now two commissioners in Miami Beach want to follow NYC's lead. Pointing to South Florida's never-ending traffic congestion and taxi drivers struggling to compete with ridesharing services, Commissioners Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Michael Góngora are proposing similar legislation.

"The sharing economy should not be exempted from the rules," Rosen Gonzalez tells New Times. "These companies require regulation like any other industry."

Miami Beach, though, can't make that move on its own. Last year, state legislators passed a bill banning local governments from regulating ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

So Rosen Gonzalez and Góngora are asking Florida lawmakers to make the change. The two resolutions — Góngora's pushes for a cap, while Rosen Gonzalez's seeks both a cap and increased wages — will be discussed during today's Miami Beach Commission meeting.

Uber fought hard against the New York City legislation, which places a one-year moratorium on new vehicles so that the exploding industry can be studied. The company spent more than $1 million on lobbyists and hit riders with pop-up messages warning of higher prices and increased wait times. The company said the cap would hurt New Yorkers' ability to find rides and disproportionately affect low-income and minority passengers who are underserved by taxis — an argument backed by the NAACP and other civil rights groups.

“It’s a racial issue,” Rev. Dr. Johnnie M. Green Jr., a Harlem church pastor, told the New York Times. “The people that champion the crusade against Uber do not have a problem hailing yellow cabs.”

Supporters of the legislation countered that the proliferation of ridesharing vehicles had impoverished drivers, many of whom are nonwhite immigrants. The services have also played a major role in the downfall of taxi companies and the economic struggle of cab drivers, they said.

In South Florida, the value of taxi medallions has plummeted from $350,000 to $35,000 since the arrival of ride-hailing companies in 2014. "We're watching the death of an industry," one driver told New Times.

Rosen Gonzalez says Florida's many preemption laws have allowed companies in the so-called sharing economy to skirt the rules.

"For a certain price, these companies circumvent home rule and buy themselves legislators who create the laws in Tallahassee that make no sense," she says. "It has to stop."  
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Brittany Shammas is a former staff writer at Miami New Times. She covered education in Naples before taking a job at the South Florida Sun Sentinel. She joined New Times in 2016.
Contact: Brittany Shammas

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