Why Taxi Drivers Don't Want Uber in Miami
Ashton Kutcher made an unplanned cameo during a Florida Senate Transportation Committee meeting two weeks ago. Uber representatives presented a clip of the Two and Half Men star and Uber investor on Jimmy Kimmel Live blasting Miami for not changing longstanding laws to accommodate the upstart car service.
via Scott Thompson's Flickr / MNT Flickr Pool
"Basically, it's like mafioso, like village mentality of like we're not gonna let the new guy in," the actor said. "Like in Miami."
Diego Feliciano might be considered one of those mafiosi. Feliciano is the president of the South Florida Taxicab Association. A man who got his start more than 30 years ago as a cab driver, Feliciano says Uber seeks to skim the top off taxis' business while potentially threatening service to those who can't afford the app.
"I just don't see the taxicab industry existing in Miami-Dade County if someone gets to do what we want to do and not doing what we have to do," he said in a recent interview with Riptide. "It's just not a fair playing field."
Feliciano also says the Miami taxi industry now realizes the need to innovate. Not only are credit card readers coming soon to all cabs, but also more cab companies will likely partner with competing Uber-like apps in the near future.
New Times spoke with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick last September, but for the uninitiated, the venture-capitalist-backed San Francisco startup allows users to pull up an app on their smartphone and order one of its cars, usually black luxury sedans. Payment is handled through the app by credit card, and a 20 percent "tip" is automatically added with no option to offer more or less. Instead of rewarding good or bad service with money, users are instead asked to rate their driver on a five-star scale. The driver's average rating is displayed on the app as users wait for their cars. Prices for the service are significantly higher than taxicabs and are not fixed. The company employs "surge pricing" when demand is unusually high, such as during periods of inclement weather or holidays.
Current Miami-Dade law regulating town car services, however, makes it nearly impossible for the company to operate here. Cars have to wait an hour after being ordered to arrive and must charge at least $70. Town car and limo services are also licensed in Miami, with the current cap on licenses sitting at 625. After failing to find traction to repeal those laws on the county level, Uber has unleashed an aggressive campaign in the state legislature. It's estimated the company has about 20 lobbyists in Tallahassee.
Feliciano says Uber's entrance into the industry could have disastrous affects by unleashing a new fleet of unregulated cars to compete with taxis.
"These cab drivers now are not only losing because they've got all these unregulated vehicles competing directly with them, but then they're also losing the cream of the crop of the business," he says of Uber's hypothetical entrance in the market. "Fairly said, my cab drivers gotta go pick up a couple 50-, 60-dollar fares in Gables Estates and Kendall to make ends meet. They can't just go pick up a mom who has to go to the laundry and do all the other little jobs."
Many drivers, especially those who own their own cabs and have shelled out for pricey permits, are financially bound to their cabs. They're also mandated to drive passengers anywhere in the city and must abide by fixed prices.