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Miami-Dade Commission Says Yes To Uber & Lyft

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – After a three-year battle, Uber and Lyft can now drive up and down and around Miami-Dade after commissioners finally approved ridesharing in the county.

"It's absolutely a big day for ridesharing, for residents of Miami-Dade County," Kasra Moshkani, the general manager of Uber South Florida.

Since to 2013, both companies have been operating illegally in Miami-Dade, racking up an estimated $4 million in fines.

Fueling much of the debate was the taxi cab industry in the county that's had a firm grip on the market. They argued much of the day trying to keep it.

"This is total discrimination against drivers, against companies, against people in  wheelchairs. Its atrocious, they are killing our business," said Rudy Gonzalez.

Enson Jean Pierre added, "There's a lot of people that are going to lose their houses, kids going to school and some are going to pick up from the garbage can to eat."

In the end, Vice Chairman Esteban Bovo pushed his plan through to radically change Miami-Dade transit.

The vote means a few things.

  1. Uber and Lyft will be legal in 10 days.
  2. Taxi cabs will now be able to charge less than the rates posted on the door so they can compete.
  3. Uber and Lyft will have to settle the nearly $4 million in fines for operating illegally.

"Yeah, they are going to pay up. They are going to pay up something," Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

The mayor is hoping to collect at least half.

Last January, the commission passed a preliminary ordinance that would require the ride-sharing companies to adhere to several new rules.

Some of the sticking points from Uber and Lyft perspective include fingerprints being required in the background checks.

Uber's South Florida General Manager Kasra Moshkani told CBS4's Natalia Zea, "Fingerprinting introduces bureaucratic red tape that doesn't necessarily provide better safety, so we have background checks that are strict, that are thorough."

The new requirements include drivers obtaining county chauffeur licenses, undergoing background checks at Uber's expense and their vehicles must undergo annual inspections to make sure they're safe. Uber prefers to use a national background check, with no specific fingerprinting.

Uber is having a similar discussion about background checks and fingerprinting in Houston. They've threatened to pull out of the city altogether if they can't come to an agreement.

According to the new ordinance, ride-sharing drivers will not be required to be insured 24 hours a day, but only when they are going to be carrying and dropping off passengers.

This was a huge issue for cab companies whose vehicles are required to carry commercial insurance 24/7, and they say that puts them at a huge disadvantage.

Bovo countered that cabs are commercial vehicles, carrying passengers is all they do, while Uber drivers also use their cars to go to the grocery store and take their kids to school.

Uber and Lyft will be able to pick up and drop off at the airport, but only if called.  They will not be allowed to congregate at the airport as cabs do, and may not be hailed from the curbside, as cabs are.

Also, Uber drivers would not have to purchase the expensive medallions that allow vehicles to operate as a taxi. It infuriated the taxi cab industry.

"The only thing they haven't done is put the nail in the coffin.  But they've got us in the coffin already," said Diego Feliciano with the South Florida Taxicab Association.

For decades the county has regulated the number of cabs on the road through the sale of medallions. Cab owners paid as much as $400,000 for them. Now, with ride sharing competition, the medallions are worth a fraction of that.

Minutes after the vote they threatened legal action.

"We are not going away without a fight," Feliciano said.

But for Mayor Gimenez, the decision was a no-brainer.

"We had to do this. We had to enter the 21st century. That's something they were hanging over us for a long time," he said.

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