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Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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It’s time to get the Tampa Bay area moving

Technology and innovation are two of the reasons America continues to lead the world in prosperity and opportunity. Both are vital to our ability to defend our nation from those seeking to undermine us. So why would we look backward to justify old practices when we have the technology to power our choices — and our financial security — well into the future?

It begins with policy makers embracing innovation and allowing companies to revolutionize the way we live by bringing efficiency, convenience and comfort to our daily lives. Ride-sharing is an example of just such innovative technology, and it’s changing the way people move in over 60 cities around the country. When America’s cities are healthy and moving, we all benefit.

App-based technology companies, such as Uber and Lyft, are two prime examples of this revolution, bringing much-needed choice and opportunity to what has been a stagnant and exclusive industry.

Ride-sharing services are efficient, seamless, cost-effective, and have been proven successful for hundreds of drivers and thousands of riders in cities across Florida. In the Tampa Bay area, residents and visitors have overwhelmingly embraced these new options because they are delivering access to the highest quality transportation with the fastest response time, reliability and convenience.

Through a smartphone application, users are able to request a ride from a background-checked, authorized driver with more transparency and accountability than existing services. Once a request has been accepted, users know the identity of their driver, vehicle type and license number with an estimated arrival time. Every trip on the Uber platform is backed by a corporate commercial insurance policy with $1 million of coverage per incident — which is three times greater than the minimum requirement of the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission.

For drivers, these new technologies facilitate an economic opportunity that allows individuals to increase their income more than any other option available.

This technology, available to anyone with a smartphone or computer, facilitates consumer choice and competition that ensures convenience and safety. The simple truth is that passengers love the flexibility, accountability and overall experience.

Makes sense, right?

So when bureaucratic bodies enforce rules made to protect taxi companies and intimidate competition, and the alliance between regulators and industry leaves us standing at the curb, we’ve got to say “enough.” This is especially true given the only reason for it — protecting the few at the expense of the rest of us — is indefensible.

How do the PTC’s $50 minimum fares benefit passengers? Why should rules be set in place that stifle innovation and stop progress? Why should the Tampa Bay region’s transportation ecosystem be further stifled when new technologies are available that give both residents, visitors, and business travelers the options they have come to expect in first-class cities?

It’s time to let the high-tech corridor be truly high tech. It’s time to allow innovation, rather than regulation, to be the solution to regional transportation challenges. It’s time to put consumers in charge of their transportation options.

It’s time to get moving.

Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, is a state senator. He chairs the Senate Transportation Committee.

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