TAMPA – The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission
is officially on the verge of dissolution since state Rep. Jamie
Grant, R-Tampa, filed a bill on Dec. 9.
“The bill is straightforward,” a Dec. 9 Tampa Bay Business
Journal article said. “If approved and signed by the Governor
it would undo the Special Act under which the agency was created
decades ago. The PTC would dissolve Oct. 1, 2017.”
The PTC regulates for-hire transportation services like taxicabs
and limousines. In recent years, it has added transportation-network
companies like Uber and Lyft to its repertoire, but has come under
scrutiny with its lenient dealings with these sharing-economy
As the controversy mounted, so did calls to abolish the agency.
The PTC has come under fire after a public-records request put
forth by ride-share company Uber. Andrea Flynn Mogensen, an attorney
with the Sarasota firm representing Uber, claimed the PTC had not
responded to a request for documents between key PTC members and
lobbyists and representatives of the local taxi and limousine
According to an Oct. 31 article in Tampa Bay Business Journal,
the public records in question are private emails and text messages
allegedly stored on personal computers and cellphones of PTC
Executive Director Kyle Cockream.
As the Oct. 31 article explained, Mogensen's claims come after
emails released through public records requests showed a series of
interactions between Cockream and leaders of the local taxi industry,
including his involvement in sting operations in which drivers
working for Uber and Lyft, Uber's ride-share competitor company, were
issued tickets for $700.
Mogensen urged county attorneys to safeguard the documents, citing
concerns over the possibility that the PTC is retroactively amending
official records and announced that Cockream will be resigning from
the PTC at the end of December.
State Rep. Dana Young, R-Tallahassee, requested an investigation
into the potential wrongdoing via Florida Department of Law
Enforcement. Grant’s bill followed closely behind Young’s
Louis Minardi, president of Yellow Cab Company of Tampa Inc., said
his company also filed suit against the PTC because the company is
also trying to break into the transportation-network industry,
including the ability to be able to enter into the same temporary
operating agreement offered to companies like Uber and Lyft.
“We are amenable to considering the same or similar temporary
rules and regulations for all Transportation Network Companies,”
Minardi said in a Nov. 7 interview with Tampa Bay Business
Minardi has been addressing this issue for a while. In an April
2015 op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times, Minardi argued that taxi
companies are no different than companies like Uber and Lyft.
“Traditional taxi companies may also be defined as
transportation network companies (TNC) or technology companies
because we also use smartphone apps to connect drivers with
customers,” he said in his op-ed. “In fact, Yellow Cab Company of
Tampa Inc. long ago broadened its online and digital presence with
its own free mobile and smartphone app to better serve its customers
with courteous, prompt and reliable transportation. Just as a
ride-sharing company does, our app provides access to fare quotes,
ratings and estimated time of arrival, including tracking the cab
Minardi further said that there is no real difference between a
taxi company and the sharing-economy companies.
“The reality is that a TNC, ride-share service — Uber, Lyft,
SideCar, Yellow Cab, United and many others — are the same,” he
said. “They are vehicles for hire. The word 'technology' is
tantamount to a magic word that spin doctors and highly paid
lobbyists throw around ill-informed legislators and other opinion
leaders. The truth is that we all have the technology, and customers
and drivers use it every day.”
With all of the scrutiny targeted at the PTC, especially with the
alleged misconduct addressed by Reps. Young and Grant, it is unlikely
the organization will make it out of the debate unscathed.
“In order to abolish the PTC, the bills filed by both Young and
Grant will have to make it through several committee stops in their
respective chambers, be approved by the full legislative bodies and
then signed by the governor,” the Dec. 9 Tampa Bay Business
Journal article said “Even if that doesn’t happen, it seems
clear the PTC’s days are numbered.”