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Politics

Uber Jobs, Big Bucks Enrich Florida

March 24, 2015 - 7:00pm

Its only been a year since the ride-sharing company Uber first began operations in Florida, but in just a short period of time, the taxi cab alternative has made over 5 million trips in the Sunshine State and pumped 18,000 jobs into the states economy.

The concept is simple: open up the Uber app, hit a button and request a driver. Costs typically tend to be less expensive than the average taxi cab, and most rides are fulfilled within 10 minutes, making the app an easy way to avoid relying on cab companies to get riders where they need to be.

Its not just Floridians, but visitors from all over the world who have used Uber here in Florida, said Matthew Gore, Uber general manager.

Gore told Sunshine State News Ubers Florida story: The service started out in Jacksonville last year and then expanded throughout the state. In the fall, Uber landed in South Florida, its biggest market in the state, and the company has been growing ever since.

The multibillion-dollar company is projected to steadily increase revenues and anticipates earning a hefty $2 billion in 2020 alone in the Sunshine State. Job numbers are also expected to increase -- Uber anticipates employing 130,000 Floridians by 2020.

For a state whose economy relies heavily on tourism, the ride-sharing service can be a good way for visitors to easily get around from place to place while visiting the state.

But it hasnt been all sunshine and positivity for Uber. Legislation is currently being pushed through Senate committees to create requirements for companies like Uber to have insurance coverage for when a rider is in an Uber and during an on call period when a driver is notified about customer pickup.

The proposal would require ride-sharing companies to have a liability coverage of at least $125,000 for death and bodily injury, $50,000 in liability coverage for property damage, and at least $250,000 in uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.

When a rider is actually in the vehicle, the coverage would need to be $1 million for death, bodily injury and property damage, and $1 million for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.

Uber drivers usually work part-time and use their own vehicles for the service, which they usually negotiate with the rider.

It is a total joke as to the required coverage that presently exists for a person that is driving around providing services for individuals who are riders," said Sen. David Simmons, D-Altamonte Springs, who filed the legislation.

On a countywide level, the company has been mired in disagreements across the state. Palm Beach County recently struck a deal with Uber to allow it to continue providing rides without facing fines.

Miami and Broward counties are also considering regulations for ride-sharing companies like Uber.

The legislation is troubling for Uber, which says the new bill and increased regulations will end up hiking up ride costs. Its also fired up state lawmakers, some of whom have pitted themselves against local governments, contending the legislation is harmful to the states free-market system.

[We need] to make sure we have free and open markets, to make sure we have competition, said Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. We need to get the red tape out of the way. We need to fight against these municipalities that continually throw up ... different regulations that stop the free market.

The threat to ride-sharing in Florida is not that we dont have enough qualified, confident, energetic people," said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach. "The threat to ride-sharing in Florida are the special interests and the local governments who want to go in and engage in collusive capitalism and make sure that we block the innovation that is so critical to our state"

Simmons' bill still needs to pass through two committees before it is heard on the Senate floor.


Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.


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