MIAMI (CBS4) – Reforms in the county’s ordinances governing for-hire transportation, like taxi cabs and limousines, is being taken up by the Miami-Dade Commission.
On Tuesday, taxi cab drivers packed the commission chambers as four proposals were considered, including one from Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Gimenez said his Ambassador Cabs Program would reward good drivers and punish those who overcharge or refuse service. The program would require taxis at the airport or sea port to accept credit cards and carry SunPass for tolls. The mayor would also like to see taxi’s outfitted with GPS navigation systems and security cameras.
But the biggest change could be something called Uber, a company that has developed an app that essentially skips the taxi companies.
Need a car? Dial one up on the app and a nearby taxi driver would accept the job.
“This is why this is a good thing. Because we are not living in a dark day. We are living in the day of light. So I support strongly good clean competition,” said Willer Fins-Aime, whose been driver a cab for 17 years.
The concept of drivers becoming their own bosses has pitted the industry against them.
“I suggest that all these people who want something for free get on the American bandwagon which is work for it. There are a lot of people standing in line for free things and I don’t see them getting anything,” said Diego Feliciano with the South Florida Taxicab Association.
The association believes opening up competition would lead to a host of problems for customers.
“If there are too many cabs then there is not enough fares and there is price gouging and a lot of other things that happen. So we try to make it a fair system, where there is enough cabs to service the customer,” said Feliciano.
Drivers contend it would make their job safer.
“I was robbed by a gun and I was shot. I was shot in the hand,” said Fins-Aime.
With the app, both passengers and drivers would know each other.
“If you can do good, it doesn’t matter. Who ever comes, whoever is leaving, it doesn’t matter. We want the competition, because without competition there is nothing,” said Fins-Aime.
In Miami Dade the drivers pay a daily fee to the taxi companies to drive. So before they start they are in the hole typically $150 to $200. By their math, a full day works out to $4 an hour.
The taxi cab drivers want to be owner/operators instead of cab companies running the show.
“Why should a person that is not even a cab driver own a permit. They are sitting at home making money,” said Jose Dominguez. “Me as a cab driver I have to beg someone to let me drive. And I already have a license.”
Cab drivers are offering to pay an annual $6,000 fee to the county which would total around $30 million every year. In return, the driver would own their cab and make a living wage. It’s a win-win by their account.
“That’s the American Dream. We all want to be our own boss,” said Dominguez.