Uber, an App-Based Car Service, Fights to Change Miami's Transportation Laws
Uber's headway on breaking down the legislation, though steady, has been slow. The legislative vote was set for September 24, but this date now represents a discussion and workshop instead, with voting to come at a later date.
"Sosa decided that it wasn't going to be a vote," says Kalanick, referring to Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa of the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners. "She's a tough one, but she's empathetic to the people's needs. It can also get streamlined if there's political will. We need as many people talking to Sosa as possible."
But how much are Miamians willing to pay for convenience? Uber black car rates are approximately double those of taxis. The company's lower-cost option, UberX, would be unavailable in Miami even if the current legislation is abolished. Popular in many of Uber's other markets, UberX allows customers to request a ride that is 10 percent less expensive than a taxi, the drawback being that your driver might pick you up in anything from a Prius to a Honda Accord. It's practicality and economy with a little less luxury. First black cars, then UberX? Wishful thinking.
"[The new legislation] doesn't allow for UberX," Kalanick says. "Only luxury vehicles. Even this ordinance is trying to protect the taxi industry."
With at least three more BCC committee meetings to go before Uber hits the streets, Kalanick is getting antsy. "If it was an up-down vote tomorrow, it would pass," he says. He and his team are honing in on social media users, whom they've asked to tweet about their #UberMiamiLove. Kalanick's personal Instagram is a testament to Uber's battle with the BCC: His latest post is a photo of the South Beach coastline, captioned, "Miami, you're a gorgeous city, but if you're not ready for a commitment (to quality transportation) we may have to call it quits."
But Instagram aside, Kalanick shows no perceptible signs of letting up. A recent Google Ventures investment of $258 million is fueling the Uber fire, and if all goes according to his plan, Uber black cars could be on the road by November 1. The company launched its Miami presence in July with on-demand ice-cream trucks that cruised the streets from SoBe to the Gables, and Kalanick and his team are adamant that Uber is the face of a much-needed change in Miami transportation.
"It changes the way you think about your life," says Nairi Hourdajian, head of public policy and communications at Uber.
For now, Kalanick is back on the couch, conversing zealously with members of his Uber team. He suddenly hops up and turns to his guests. "I just wanna do this already!" he exclaims, exhilaration splashed across his face like a kid on Christmas Eve. Chairwoman Sosa is Santa, his social media followers are the elves, and Miami is his big, fat present.
Follow Morgan on Twitter @youcancallme_MO