By Diane Emeott
Tami Livnat Ruddy arrived at an event celebrating the first day back in business for Uber — transported by none other than an Uber driver.
After being shut down in Broward County since July 31, Uber resumed operations locally on Oct. 15. Two days earlier, on Oct. 13, Broward County Commission passed an ordinance expanding transportation options and protecting the public, 6-2. (County Commissioners Lois Wexler and Dale Holness voted against.)The ordinance represents a combination of different ideas by County Commissioners Mark Bogen and Chip LaMarca.
“Eight out of 9 commissioners voted on it. (Commissioner Barbara) Shareif was absent, so did not vote. The majority were in favor of it. We needed 5 votes to win,” LaMarca said at an event at Yolo last Thursday night.
LaMarca described it as “a long process, getting to this point.” He called the controversy surrounding Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) “a small speed bump in the road.”
The new ordinance now requires background checks of drivers by a third party that is subject to a county audit and inspection of records. It also requires inspection of any vehicle used for transporting the public to be done by a state-approved, ASE-certified mechanic.
“This is not about me. Not about the county commission. This is just about common sense, the free market, and people having an option to get a ride,” said LaMarca. “The bottom line is: People are safe. This is an efficient mode of transportation,” he continued, noting that there were no significant issues before, with Uber giving rides to the airport and seaport, while operating in Broward from August 2014 to July 2015.
“They [Uber] pulled out because of a legal injunction. They didn’t want to get into a lawsuit with the county,” LaMarca said.
Uber facts and statistics
There are more than a few thousand Uber driver-partners in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.
The vast majority of these partners drive part-time (sometimes just a few hours a week), earning good money while scheduling around other work, family and life responsibilities.
To-date, Uber partners have provided well over 1 million safe, reliable rides in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.
An Uber rider explains
Livnat Ruddy explained that Uber riders have their choice of three categories of cars for pick-up. Uber X is a standard car. Uber XL is an SUV, and Uber Select is a luxury vehicle or sports car.
Those wanting to use Uber for transport must first download an app onto their smartphone.
“They keep your credit card on file [for payment],” she explained.
On your phone, you set the pick-up location and request the type of Uber service you wish to use. Using GPS tracking, they send a signal to whichever drivers are in the area. Small cartoon-like bubbles appear on a map showing you how many drivers are nearby. When a driver picks up the call, a picture of the driver, their license number, and how many minutes away they are appears on your phone. You can either say “yes” to this driver, or wait for another one.
At 7:10 p.m. on Uber’s first night back in service, there were 10 cars near Yolo for each of 3 Uber categories – a total of about 30 cars.
“We are just really grateful that Uber is back! We’ve been active Uber users,” enthused Livnat Ruddy.
The taxi driver’s perspective
Professional taxi driver Wayne Correa, who drives for Metro Taxi, is less thrilled with the resurgence of TNCs.Asked what he thought about Uber being back in business in Broward, he just shook his head.
“Taxi drivers must get a background check by the FBI, and a special license from the county – a taxi-limousine license,” said the taxi driver with 10 years’ experience driving in New York City and Boca Raton.
“They just send in an application,” he said of Uber drivers. “And they charge only half-price, maybe one-third [of normal cab fares].
Correa said TNCs like Uber should get the same treatment as taxicab companies.
“They should get the same license, pay the same fees. They don’t pay anything!” he said.
Uber has continued to operate in Palm Beach County during the shutdown in Broward.