After more than a month of car impounds, citations and dense political squabbles, ride-sharing companies Lyft and UberX may finally be able to function legally in Miami-Dade County.
But probably not anytime soon.
A preliminary vote to legalize the services was made during a county commission meeting, where 10 out of 12 commissioners voted "yes" to legislation proposed by Commissioner Esteban "Steve" Bovo.
But the transportation and aviation committee isn't expected to move on the proposal until September. The delay raises dubious questions about Lyft and UberX's future.
Bovo's proposal essentially legalizes ride-for-hire services like Lyft and UberX, labeling them "transportation networking entities." The services run through smartphone apps that connect passengers seeking a ride with a driver approved by the companies.
Lyft and UberX have been illegal in Miami-Dade County because they break current County code, which caters to the taxi and limousine industries. Under Bovo's new proposal, however, the apps' drivers would be required to register with the County, as well as agree to a state criminal background check.
The new legislation also does not address some of Lyft and UberX's fiercest competitors: taxi-medallion owners.
Below, read an interview with the Miami Herald's politics reporter, Patricia Mazzei, about the preliminary vote.
Commissioners gave the preliminary OK for Lyft and UberX to operate. What does this mean for Miami-Dade County?
The way the county approves laws, they have to go through three votes, usually. Right now, the commission approved the first vote of allowing ride-for-hire companies to operate.
Now, it's going to have to go to probably the most difficult vote, which is in the transportation and aviation committee, that in the past has rejected any efforts to reform the laws to allow these companies to work here locally. They're here, but they're working illegally.
So, even though this preliminary vote was passed, these services are still illegal?
Yes. The county would have to actually write a new section of the law under this proposal, and that would take an approval from the committee, and then a second approval from the county commission. That is still very much up in the air.
The new rules say Lyft and UberX drivers are required to register with Miami-Dade County. I know that previously, these companies were against government regulation. How does Lyft feel about these new [proposed] rules?
Uber tried to get the county to completely deregulate the industry so that they didn't have any kind of oversight. That failed earlier this year. When Lyft came in, they tried a different approach, where they're sitting down with the county to rewrite the rules.
The proposal on the table right now is still kind of a first draft. The two companies say they're encouraged by it. They're not going out campaigning for it necessarily, but Lyft folks did help write it. It sounds like they're opening up to having some regulation over their drivers and vehicles.
But again, it's going to be difficult to get through that [transportation and aviation] committee -- they're not going to take it up probably until September, and it's a four person committee, which means that things can end up in a tie. And if it ends in a tie, it dies, it fails.
What does the taxi industry think about this?
They have opposed any attempt to write new rules for the companies. They think the companies should operate under the existing legal scheme. They say, "If you want to work with us, we can run your app in our taxis." But that's pretty much the only thing that would be allowed under the existing rules.
Even then, I think they'd have to tweak them a little bit. While they haven't come out to specifically talk about this proposal yet, I imagine they'd be less than happy about it.