The global popularity of services offered by companies such as Uber and Lyft is undeniable. Traditional taxi service, an industry that effectively captured the regulatory powers of government to preserve its economic interests long ago, finds itself challenged by a new transportation model. It is the responsibility of local government officials to redefine the rules of for-hire transportation and set public policy in this arena.
As a businessman, I appreciate the sentiment of shareholders and investors in these popular ride-hailing apps. They firmly believe that: Government should stay out of their business and should obstruct the introduction of a new method of delivering service; public-sector involvement should be for the purpose of facilitating innovation and new commercial opportunities, applying only the most modest regulations to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our workers, residents and tourists.
We are fortunate to be a global vacation destination. For our mutual benefit, every restaurant, hotel, tourist attraction and leisure service provider complies with basic health and safety regulations. In the interest of protecting our tourist economy, public administrators work tirelessly to ensure the public’s safety and welfare. A life-safety failure in any enterprise of the tourism industry has the potential to affect the entire economy of South Florida.
For-hire transportation services operate on Miami-Dade County’s roadways, an environment that everyone recognizes as challenging. The Insurance Research Council estimates that one in four drivers in Florida do not carry insurance. According to the Tampa Bay Tribune, 2.2 million people in the state have suspended or revoked licenses. Government officials have a legitimate interest in the safety of commercial for-hire transportation services. When it comes to public safety and the transportation industry, business and government must work hand-in-hand to achieve the best results for the traveling public.
As I have proposed, private certified mechanics will conduct vehicle inspections. Once a vehicle passes inspection, and proof of insurance is provided, the county will issue a for-hire vehicle permit.
The county will conduct an expeditious review of driving records and criminal history to qualify individuals to work for this new service. Once the owners get a license to operate in Miami-Dade County, the ride-hailing companies will be legitimate corporate citizens of our
To facilitate the processing of new chauffeur applications, I am proposing we eliminate local geography tests, physical examinations and language-proficiency tests. By adopting these changes, it may become possible to administer the entire application process online.
Speaking from experience, I recall a degree of pride in being recognized as a registered chauffeur by Miami-Dade County and becoming eligible to drive a taxi. This new chauffeur’s registration process will be much easier, but the privileges and employment opportunities will be much greater.
Authorized ride-for-hire services in Miami-Dade County will provide a new opportunity for our workforce to earn extra dollars. In a metropolitan region with one of the highest income-inequality gaps in the nation, the flexibility to supplement regular income by working “when available” is a welcome prospect in many households. With our high level of cost-burdened households (paying more than 30 percent of income for housing), I am confident there will be an abundant supply of eligible and qualified drivers who are willing to register as chauffeurs.
Finally, on behalf of our visitors and residents with disabilities, I want to ensure that these new ride-for-hire services are made available to all consumers. The voluntary nature of these ride-for-hire services may present a special business opportunity for drivers with expertise in assisting passengers in wheelchairs. I am confident an equitable solution to addressing the market demand for accessible vehicles is within reach of these innovative ride-for-hire services.
With the safety of the traveling public always first and foremost, I am confident reasonable public policy solutions will be approved.
Jean Monestime is chair of the Miami-Dade County Commission and represents District 2.