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First Coast Connect: Regulating Uber, Lyft in Jacksonville

Uber app on screen
Flickr Creative Commons

Discussion over how to regulate ride-for-hire companies continues here in North Florida and across the nation.

City Councilman Matt Schellenberg, chair of the Jacksonville Vehicle for Hire Committee, appeared on Thursday’s First Coast Connect to talk about his position on ride-for-hire companies.  

The three main topics discussed by the committee are background checks, vehicle inspections and insurance. 

Currently state regulations mandate all taxi companies conduct a background check every five years, and those companies have taken it a step further and conduct background checks once a year.

Schellenberg recommends anybody who does business with the city of Jacksonville will have to have a background check every year, and the city is in the process of seeing this happen. One issue causing some division within the committee is who is going to conducting the background checks.

“I believe that corporations are very responsible for it because it is in their best interest to do it,” he said.

The city also requires transportation networks to inspect their vehicles yearly by the Automotive Service Excellence. Council agreed that ride-for-hire companies should comply with this, but the city only has one ASE-certified inspector, which is why Schellenberg suggested that a certified ASE mechanic is just as qualified to conduct the inspections.

Schellenberg also commented taxi companies in Florida have to have blanket coverage all the time, and the committee questioned why they needed such a high level of insurance when they are not working.  He added the same rules should apply for Uber and Lyft, but is a work in progress right now.

With many taxi companies concerned there is not a level playing field when competing with ride-for-hire companies, Schellenberg believes the medallion should be taken away completely for all transportation networks.

“I believe the medallion is a way for the city to get some money,” he said. “I don’t believe that this is the way we should be going.”

Companies, like Uber and Lyft, have made their companies adaptable to the ever growing technology world, which is one of the reasons Schellenberg believes ride-for-hire companies are thriving across the nation.

By using phone applications, ride-for-hire companies create visible profiles of the drivers and an exact location of where the driver is- which many customers value.

“There is nothing unfair about what transportation networks are doing,” he said. “They are using the digital world to be more efficient and to get people from point A to point B quicker than any place else.”