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Taxi Drivers Plead With Commission For Changes

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - A CBS4 News investigation that profiled Miami-Dade's taxi cab industry revealed that many drivers feel they are overworked and underpaid.

Despite the low income, some drivers are being asked to purchase new cars to improve Miami's image.

Wednesday night, the county commissioners took action on reforms that could change taxis dramatically.

Each driver needs something called a medallion—and there are about 2100 in the county—most of them owned by investors who rent them out to drivers. Those drivers tried to change that Wednesday night but ended up defeated.

Miami-Dade's aging taxi industry faced off with a company called UBER Wednesday night. The company pledges to offer better on-demand car service from a smart phone APP—that's if the county would open up the market to competition.

"United states is about competition. If you're afraid of competition, you are in the wrong country," said Raymond Francois of New Vision Taxi Drivers Association of Miami.

Currently most Miami-Dade cab drivers rent licenses to drive.  The large rental fees make it hard to make a living.

Tuesday night CBS4's David Sutta did an in-depth report on the issue. The story actually played for commissioners Wednesday as they debated what to do on a series of proposals that could change the industry dramatically.

"I don't think we should flood the market… issue a number of permits," said Dennis Moss, a Miami-Dade Commissioner.

In the end UBER didn't have the votes and commissioners took up the issue of removing the cap on medallions, or permits, to drive. Rather than putting issue fade, it was deferred to December.

The other major issue debated united both taxi owners and drivers. The ambassador cab program would require cab drivers to accept credit cards, upgraded dress code, and the purchase of new cars.

"Where is the funding going to come from?  There is no meter increase?" asked Les Eisenberg of Miami Yellow Cab Company.

One after another, owners and drivers protested. The only ones in favor, however, are the people who use the cabs as a service.

"Basically, in terms of this ground transportation, it's broken. It needs to be fixed. We're mad as hell and we are not going to take it anymore," said Bill Talbert of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In the end commissioners passed the ambassador program.

The ambassador cab program, requiring the acceptance of credit cards, GPS and new cars—may end up applying to all taxi's countywide.

The commission will make a final vote on it in December. How will they pay for the upgrades?  A fare hike is being considered.

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