Miami officials propose law changes to allow Uber service

If changes to the city's strict transportation laws are implemented, the San Francisco-based black car service gets to start sending out cars in Miami.

Uber Miami's Twitter account. Screenshot by Donna Tam/CNET

Miami officials have proposed changes to the city's limousine service ordinance, essentially allowing Uber's black car service to finally operate within the area.

The proposal would allow a "digital dispatch software provider," i.e. Uber to apply for a limousine service license and wipe out a slew of restrictions that have hindered Uber's entry into the lucrative Miami-Dade County market. Uber contracts with luxury sedans to provide on-demand car service, and limousine laws govern those operations.

These hindering restrictions include requiring a passenger to request a car an hour before the pick-up time, rendering Uber's speedy services useless, and pricey minimum fares and a cap on the number of cars licensed to operate. The law requires limos and black cars to charge a minimum fare that is more than three times the hourly rate of taxi cabs, a price currently set at $80, or $40 dollars an hour with the required two-hour minimum, or $70 for a one-stop ride, according to city documents. Cabs, on the other hand, charge a $24 hourly rate.

The legislation is working its way through the city's transportation committee, but Uber expects the full City Commission to review the law in the "coming months," according to a blog post from Uber:

"This legislation makes huge strides to allow transportation alternatives in Miami-Dade County. This proposal, however, is designed around luxury services, and doesn't yet tackle lower-cost transportation options - (how about that sleek black Prius pickup for a more economical way to get around?!). We hope that in the future additional change will provide Miami with access to the full range of personal transportation services including lower-cost options."

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said the laws protect the taxi industry from competition, which means customers who want speedy luxury car service don't have the alternative.

The proposed changes to the law eliminates this wait time and lets the license holders or digital services like Uber establish the fare.

It's another example of how companies like Uber are disrupting tradition industries. Uber has long wanted to operate in Miami area, which has more than 2.5 million residents and a healthy tourism market. The company started tweeting from its Uber Miami Twitter account in March 2012, with promises that the service would be coming to the area soon.

Update, 6:10 p.m.: An earlier version of this story contained a quote with inaccurate information. The quote, which implied that Miami's limo law violations would result in criminal charges, was removed.

 

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