Florida Keys

We need Uber on the streets, Key West city leaders say

In Key West, taxis are more expensive than in New York City, locals say.
In Key West, taxis are more expensive than in New York City, locals say.

Uber and other ride-sharing services belong in Key West, city leaders said last week, but they couldn’t decide how to make it happen.

Instead, the Key West City Commission denied three requests for new vehicle-for-hire licenses at a special meeting Wednesday at Old City Hall, saying no evidence showed the island needed additional cabs on the streets.

The cab conversation, though, always brings up Uber, which is outlawed in Key West but allowed throughout Monroe County.

“Eventually, Uber will be here and that’s the hard fact,” City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley said. “The Legislature going to come up with something we’re probably going to have to comply with.”

In Key West, taxis are more expensive than in New York City, locals said Wednesday.

A trip from Duval Street to Sugarloaf Key — about 20 miles — is more than $60 each way, while one local said he’s forced to pay $20 to $25 for a five-mile taxi ride from Duval to Stock Island

Key West hasn’t held a taxi license lottery hasn’t been held since 1992 and three taxi fleets hold 56 of the 73 available licenses.

Business leaders have become restless over the Uber ban.

The Lodging Association of the Florida Keys and the Key West and Key West Attractions Association have both asked for ride-sharing, while one resort said it gets complaints from guests nearly every day about Key West lacking Uber and Lyft.

“We’ve been talking about this for a long time. It’s clear we need this,” said City Commission Sam Kaufman. “We don’t need to spend money on another study. We need some action. We need something soon.”

Ride-sharing will decrease traffic congestion in a tourist-dependent city where most visitors either take cabs or rent cars.

“Competition is good, the free market is good,” Kaufman said.

Taxi fleet owners and drivers argued Uber would harm their business and defended themselves against allegations their cabs were old, smelly or dirty.

“It’s not my job to make you do modern technology and upgrade your business,” Mayor Craig Cates said to the pro-taxi crowd in the audience. “We’ve got to move forward here. That’s the future. You can’t keep your head in the sand.”

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen