On February 1st, Orlando’s new ridesharing ordinance will go into effect but it appears there is no end in sight for the ongoing controversy surrounding Transportation Network Companies like Uber. While Mayor Buddy Dyer and the Orlando City Council attempted to regulate rideshare companies, critics like Uber say the city ordinance threatens the ability to provide access to safe, low-cost rides and economic opportunity for the people of Orlando.
“Unfortunately, while the City took the right step in developing a regulatory framework for ridesharing, the bill in its current form simply doesn’t work,” Team Uber Florida declared in a statement last week.
Back in December, Mayor Dyer was eager to push new regulations against rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft and the City Council approved. At the time, the companies called the efforts a way to force Transportation Network Companies out of operating in Orlando. Uber said Mayor Dyer’s ordinance was “written for taxi companies that don’t want to have to compete” (aka Mears).
Ahead of the ordinance going into effect, Uber is now slamming the “deeply flawed” ordinance on several grounds and taking their case directly to the public. Uber contends the new ordinance threatens transportation and economic opportunity in several ways.
The current ordinance requires Uber fares to double, which the company says will harm low-income residents and decrease net driver income. Nearly a dozen other cities have Transportation Network Companies regulating ridesharing, but Orlando’s is the only one requiring a mandatory minimum fare. Uber also claims lowering fares actually increases driver earnings because drivers are so much busier. Mandating higher fares will actually reduce driver earnings, says the company.
In addition to a mandatory minimum fare, Dyer pushed through excessive permitting fees that will limit economic opportunities and access to safe, reliable rides through ridesharing. Orlando’s ordinance is out of step with all other TNC regulations across the country and severely disrupts the business model. Orlando will charge fees on a per-driver basis, putting the financial burden on the individual driver rather than on the TNC, which wants to be responsible for covering city costs. Uber says this will also create a huge barrier to job opportunities.
Finally, Uber continues to push back against Dyer’s claims of safety concerns. The company emphasizes its focus on insurance, background checks and inspections. “Safety remains our top priority, and we’re proud of the new bar we’ve set in the transportation industry.”
“We firmly believe the ridesharing industry should be regulated, but those rules should not place additional burdens on consumers and hurt their ability to start their own business or get a safe, affordable ride,” Team Uber Florida stated. “Orlando’s deeply flawed ordinance simply must change. We will continue to work with the City Council and Mayor Dyer to ensure we keep providing the low-cost, convenient transportation alternative you deserve and have come to rely on.”
Uber has also been running ads on Facebook promoting their services in Orlado. Last week, one Uber ad was “introducing the lowest uberX prices ever in Orlando” by advertising rates 25% cheaper than a taxi. Just today, a new Uber ad boasted even lower rates, 60% cheaper than a taxi. That sounds like a company intending on operating regardless of the new ordinance.