Should You Use Uber or Lyft in Florida?

Uber and Lyft Hit Roadblocks Operating in Florida

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••• It's taxis vs. ride-share Lyft in many metropolitan Florida cities. © Getty Images/Justin Sullivan, Photographer

Need a ride from the airport? Hailing a taxi can be expensive. The two most prominent transportation apps – Uber and Lyft – are now operating in Florida. They are ride-sharing technology-driven apps used to arrange and pay for rides. Those rides are part of the ride-sharing movement that uses ordinary citizens, behind the wheels of their own vehicles, to drive you where you want to go for a fee that is usually much less than using a cab for the same trip.

Specifically, after a rider requests a ride via the app, he or she may track the vehicle via GPS watching it approach. The apps provide a picture of the driver and car and reviews from other riders. Once the destination is reached, the rider gets out without paying the driver. The app will charge the rider’s credit card and send them a receipt via email.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The main advantage of using Uber or Lyft instead of a taxi or limousine is that it’s less expensive. Both companies claim that their transportation service is 40% cheaper than a taxi. Charges vary by location for both these ride-share companies and taxi and limousine services, but in Tampa, each ride is based on a $1.25 base fee, plus a $1.00 trust and safety fee, $1.20 a mile and 13 cents a minute.

Tampa’s taxi rates are set by the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission and include a flat-rate charge of $25.00 per vehicle for non-stop trips to or from Tampa International Airport to an in-town zone or a $15.00 minimum charge from the airport with the taximeter determining the final charge if it goes over $15.00. Taximeter charges are $2.50 for the first 1/8-mile, 30 cents for each additional 1/8-mile and 30 cents for each minute of waiting time.

Other advantages may be a cleaner ride. One of the major complaints against taxis is the lack of cleanliness of the vehicle. Driver’s of Uber and Lyft may be friendlier and willing to offer specific tips for must-see attractions, places to avoid and not-to-miss nightlife opportunities.

Disadvantages have more to do with legalities and safety. Ride-share risks include insurance concerns if you and your ride are involved in an accident. While driver’s for these ride-share companies are required to have insurance, most insurance coverage for personal vehicles excludes the vehicle when used as a vehicle for hire (commonly known as a “livery” exclusion). This means the private insurance may not pay.

Additionally, while drivers for both companies go through background checks, regulators are not satisfied that they are stringent enough; and, although vehicles are also “inspected,” how stringently depends on the company and city.

The Trouble With Uber and Lyft in Florida

Currently, Uber is operating in Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Tallahassee, and Tampa; and, Lyft operates in all of those Florida cities except Tallahassee. Transportation authorities in every city in Florida have expressed displeasure at having the ride-share companies join the ranks of Florida’s highly-regulated transportation systems. Legally, the companies are operating outside the law by claiming they are Internet- or app-based companies and not subject to local transportation regulations. Of course, local regulators say they are wrong.

Perhaps you have seen the cute pink mustaches on the front of cars in your city that identifies Lyft drivers. They’re cute but easily identifiable to authorities that are handing out misdemeanor tickets to Lyft and Uber drivers in the Tampa Bay area. Broward County is bringing legal action against Uber and Orlando International Airport is suing Uber for allegedly picking up passengers without getting proper taxi credentials. Uber and Lyft are both being hit with legal citations for running what Jacksonville City Hall has called an “illegal operation.”

Should You Use Uber or Lyft in Florida?

While Uber and Lyft drivers are faced with the possibility of being issued tickets, being drawn into lawsuits and even face threats of having their vehicles impounded, riders are not affected. The possibility does exist of riders being delayed or inconvenienced if your driver is pulled over, but riders do not face being ticketed.

Safety should certainly be a concern. Drivers and vehicles are checked out by Uber and Lyft, but probably not to the extent that meet local regulations and requirements. In the event of an accident, whether you would be adequately covered by insurance should have a bearing on your decision to ride.