UPDATE: The Miami-Dade County Commission has canceled the May 19th workshop on ride-sharing, but most expect the meeting to be rescheduled.
There’s a big legal gray area in Florida when it comes to ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber. Technically they’re operating illegally, but local counties have turned a blind eye to their operations, which in Miami are now hitting the one-year mark.
Key West police detectives recently conducted an undercover sting operation they called "Operation Safe Hire" targeting Uber drivers. Two drivers were cited with violating city ordinances that require drivers of vehicle for hire to have a permit from the city and for the vehicles themselves to have a special license.
The maximum penalty for each violation is a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.
From Pensacola to Key West, the ride-sharing company Uber announced that its app-based service -- specifically its lower cost "uberX" service -- will now be available in dozens of new locations around Florida including Naples, Sarasota, Fort Myers and the Florida Keys.
"Now we’re nearly everywhere in Florida," an announcement claimed on the company's blog. "As of today, over 82 percent of Floridians have access to Uber!"
The Board of County Commissioner’s transportation and aviation committee met this week to talk taxis, Uber and Lyft. The ride-sharing apps have been facing resistance from the taxi industry and some county commissioners.
“I have a problem with companies coming into the area and setting up shop when they’ve been told that what they’re doing is illegal,” said Dennis Moss, chairman of the committee.
Ride-sharing app Lyft has been operating illegally in Miami-Dade County for a little over two weeks now, and the app's directors and lobbyist Jorge Luis Lopez are trying to resolve their legality issue.
They are working on new model legislation that seeks to make room for apps like Lyft in county code. If the Board of County Commissioners approves, the service has the potential to become legal.
Drivers for a new ride-sharing service, Lyft, are now facing significant fines and penalties from Miami-Dade County. The service has been around for about two weeks now, but it's operating illegally.
The fines don't seem to be scaring off Uber, the company that faced opposition from county officials last year. Wednesday, Uber plans to launch a service similar to Lyft, UberX, and will offer free rides through June 20.
Sen. Marco Rubio, as well as several Florida state representatives, are trying to clear the road for a popular smartphone app called Uber to operate in Miami-Dade. The app, which allows people to hire a town car and driver through a few taps of their phone, has been meeting fierce resistance from the county’s taxi companies.