The Taxi Alternative
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South Florida Crime
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s been eight weeks since taxi competitors Uber and Lyft started up in Miami-Dade County.
The ride-sharing companies are beating up the transportation industry by giving you the power to order up a ride with an app on your smart phone.
Their cars are typically cleaner, arrive on time, and are cheaper than taxi cabs. But not everything has changed. Many of the people driving Uber and Lyft cars are cab drivers turning on their industry.
From sunrise to sunset, drivers sit in the taxi lot of Miami International Airport, baking for hours for a fare. Eight months ago CBS4 documented how an average driver like Miguel Lantigua worked 16 hours to make $55, which is less than minimum wage.
“Hopefully tomorrow is a better day,” said Lantigua.
Earlier this month Lantigua, who is quite happy, let CBS4 ride in his Uber van as his phone alerted him to his first job.
“I got a job. 6701 Collins, that’s going to be hotel,” said Lantigua.
Little did Lantigua know the next day would actually be better.
“I get home by four, five o’clock. I have more time to spend with family,” said Lantigua. “And I can make better money with this.”
Lantigua sold his cab in June and signed on with the ride sharing company Uber.
“This is like a network now. This is more like Facebook and Twitter of transportation,” said Lantigua.“This is changing the way of transportation. That is what this is doing.”
Instead of hours spent waiting for a fare, the rides come to him. Riders pull up the app and ask for a ride, if he’s the closest car he gets the alert on his smart phone.
“As long as Uber is here, I am going to stay here. I’ll tell you that,” said Lantigua.
Lantigua isn’t alone though.
“I sold my cab,” said driver Rafael Santos.
Everyday more and more cab drivers like Santos are jumping ship. He even said that he is ok risking his job for the new service.
“The job that we had, there was no job. It was a joke,” said Santos.
In Miami-Dade County a majority of the cabs you see on the road are not owned by the drivers. They simply are renting a medallion that allows them to drive. With Uber, they essentially are taking to their personal cars and stopped renting medallions.
“We’ve had hundreds of taxi cab drivers inquire and come in and start to join the platform and they are really excited about it and so are we,” said Billy Guernier of Uber.
Uber wouldn’t say exactly how many drivers have crossed over but it’s clear the people who were renting out their medallions are pissed.
“We don’t negotiate with people who break the laws,” said some a part of Miami-Dade TV.
The roughly 2,000 medallion owners are worried about the value of their medallions. The county auctioned medallions fetched hundreds of thousands of dollars. People mortgaged homes to buy them in recent years.
At a recent county commission meeting on taxi cab regulation taxi owners complained.
“They spent $400,000; they bought the permit at the auction. Now you tell it isn’t worth the price?” said one medallion owner.
The county is trying to make good on medallions by writing $1000 tickets to Uber and Lyft drivers they catch. They claim the ride-sharing drivers are operating illegally.
Lantigua got a thousand dollar ticket. Uber will pay it.
But Lantigua doesn’t feel like he is breaking the law.
“I would say I am not breaking the law,” said Lantigua. “I don’t think there is a law to regulate this type of transportation.”
Commissioners are trying to clarify the rules but haven’t been able to pass anything.
“What I’m against is having individuals come basically not follow the rules,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Dennis Moss.
“Who is breaking laws? This is a ride-sharing app. You can request a ride, I can give you a ride, and in return you give me a donation for giving you a ride, which helps me pay for gas. Helps me pay for things,” said a Lyft driver in response.
The argument has left ride-sharing apps and the county in deadlock.
So if they keep writing tickets will drivers just keep paying them?
“We have no plans to stop operating in Miami,” said Guernier.
Which brings us back to the airport, where some cab drivers are still baking in the sun waiting for a fare. But more and more you see two people who say nothing to each other, swiftly throw the bags in the back of the unmarked car, and the passenger takes the backseat.
“I hope the commissioners have the vision, the authorities here in miami have the vision, to support this kind transportation. The new way, the new model of transportation,” said Lantigua.
Uber said they see the conversation shifting among politicians. It’s no longer about ‘how do we get rid of them’ but rather ‘how do they fit here.’ In the meantime taxi cab owners are infuriated, they continue to pay licenses, fees, and insurance while Uber drivers don’t pay any of that.
In short, this is far from over.