Uber is continuing to expand its ride-for-hire service in South Florida — and the latest move is bringing the UberUP initiative to Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
The Uber Urban Partnership focuses on recruiting new drivers by centering on urban and inner-city communities. The company plans to launch the initiative in Miami-Dade at an event at 2 p.m. Monday in Miami Gardens at the Betty T. Ferguson Center, 3000 NW 199th St.
“This is going to be a real chance to go into communities and partner with local organizations and inform people about the economic opportunity that already exists with Uber,” said Uber spokesman Bill Gibbons.
The company has partnered with local clergy, including Bishop Victor T. Curry of the New Birth Baptist Church, and community organizations to spread word about partnering with Uber. The mayors of Miami Gardens and Doral and Miami Dolphins defensive tackle A.J. Francis will also appear at the event.
Gibbons said that another major part of the initiative is reaching out to communities and cities outside of the heart of downtown Miami and providing service. He didn’t specify where the initiative would focus its recruitment but the company hopes to add 10,000 drivers to its fleet across Miami-Dade and Palm Beach.
“Communities that are usually under-served by other transportation options are where we’ve seen a lot of demand,” Gibbons said.
The initiative is the latest move by the company to increase its influence in South Florida, including announcing the location of its Miami headquarters in Brickell. But as it stands, Uber and other cellphone-based ride options are operating outside of county law and drivers are subject to citations.
Uber also recently announced it would leave Broward County by month’s end because of restrictions the company finds too strict. And Key West arrested an Uber driver earlier this month following a new July 1 law that restricts unlicensed vehicle-for-hire drivers.
Taxi drivers across Miami-Dade have criticized and protested against the county and Mayor Carlos Gimenez for not strongly enforcing the laws against the companies. Cab drivers, who are required to operate under county licensing restrictions, say they continue to lose business to Uber and Lyft.
So far, the county has issued about 2,000 citations to Uber and Lyft drivers.
Mayor Gimenez has continued to support Uber and other similar ride-for-hire options and wants to see them regulated. An ordinance that would have supported the services didn’t receive County Commission support earlier this year.
“Ultimately the mayor thinks we’re operating in Miami-Dade County with a 20th century code in the year 2015,” said Gimenez’s communications chief Mike Hernandez.
Uber spokesman Gibbons said the company has met with commissioners to see if regulation can happen sometime in the future. Hernandez said the mayor will likely make a proposal later this year after budget preparations conclude.
“We are encouraged by those conversations so far and we expect to work with county government to ensure that the Uber platform is available to people,” Gibbons said.
And the company believes UberUP will play an important role in educating people about the service in Miami-Dade. The initiative has launched in other cities including Boston, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and New Haven, Conn. Uber wants to add 50,000 drivers across the East Coast through the program.