Dozens of taxis blared their horns during a rolling protest of County Hall on Tuesday as they tried to pressure elected officials to crack down on Uber and Lyft.
The cellphone-based ride providers are taking a dramatic bite out of the taxi industry's business, and drivers want Miami-Dade to step up enforcement of the laws that bar both companies from providing for-hire passenger services in the county.
"It's completely killed us," said driver Kassa Meshehsa, who five years ago purchased one of the 2,100 county-issued taxi “medallions” that are the only path to operating a cab in Miami-Dade. Joel Lubin, manager of the Flamingo taxi company, estimated his is losing about 30 percent of its business to Uber and its smaller competitor, Lyft.
The two national companies argue the closed system is stifling the kind of competition that benefits Miami-Dade residents and visitors by providing more transportation options.
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Uber and Lyft uses freelance drivers operating their own vehicles, allowing both companies to rapidly build fleets that now top 10,000 drivers for Uber alone, according to company figures. Miami-Dade has only about 6,000 licensed taxi drivers, with some sharing a single cab.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez already supports changing county taxi laws to accommodate Uber and Lyft, though his administration has issued nearly 2,000 citations to drivers for both companies. Protestors held signs accusing the county of not actually collecting the fines, and are urging more aggressive enforcement by the Gimenez administration.
A pro-Uber ordinance failed to gain traction this year at the County Commission, and the app-based rides also failed to win changes in the state insurance regulations it wanted this year.
For Tuesday’s protest, taxis drove one lap after another around the entire city block that County Hall occupies in downtown Miami. Traffic crawled around the area as taxi drivers honked their horns.
Some drivers planned to address county commissioners during their regular meeting. No vote is scheduled on the Uber issue at the meeting.