The empire strikes back: Lou Minardi speaks out on Uber & Lyft in Tampa

Posted by Mitch Perry on Thu, Jul 3, 2014 at 11:28 AM

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The ascendancy of ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber has taken a bit of hit recently. In Pittsburgh earlier this week both companies received an order to cease and desist by the state's Public Utility Commission, and in California, that state's PUC ordered those companies to stop driving or picking up riders at any airport in the state, or they could be shut down completely there as well.

So with all of the hassles he's had to endure since Uber first came to Tampa during the Republican National Convention two years ago, you'd think that Lou Minardi, President of Yellow Cab in Tampa, would also be rooting for regulators to find a way to shut down Uber and Lyft in Hillsborough County. But he says you'd be wrong.

"Not necessarily," Minardi told CL on Wednesday.

"Their platform can work with anyone," he says in particular about Uber. "They've elected not to do that. They could operate legally in Tampa tomorrow without a doubt," he maintains, but says that's not their M.O. "You're either going to do it their way or the highway."

As has been extensively reported, both ride-sharing services have been operating in Tampa (and St. Petersburg) for several months now, without being certified by the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission. PTC Commissioner Kyle Cockream says that his agency held a public workshop in May to discuss what Uber called a barrier to them entering the market — the $50 minimum fare for limousines.

That was for Uber Black. But UberX and Lyft have been operating without being certified by the PTC since April, resulting in fines for some of their drivers who've been cited by PTC agents.

In the battle over Uber, Minardi has been depicted as a veritable dinosaur, protecting the interests of the taxicab establishment against the new and exciting technologies presented by Uber and Lyft. In an op-ed published in today's Tampa Tribune, St. Petersburg-based state Senator Jeff Brandes writes, "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?"

But Minardi says that his and other companies have had app-based technology enabling a customer to request a ride via their smartphone since 2007."I (Yellow Cab) have an app, United Cab has an app, Clearwater Yellow Cab has an app. There are four national apps in Hillsborough County." He says the media in the Tampa Bay area have ignored this fact. 

"OK, I guess if I were to start breaking the laws and use y'all as my free messaging service I could," he says when asked why the outreach to the media has been so poor. "I've advertised on Bright House. I've advertised on Verizon. We've done everything that we can do locally to do that, but even with all the press that's been going on for the last year and a half, not one person has printed anything about any company having apps or local limousine companies or anything like that."

Brandes and Hillsborough County GOP Representative Jamie Grant have been the leaders in trying to change regulations to allow the companies to operate legally. Though Minardi has disagreed with the lawmakers at times during this process (to say the least), he says that going through the legal process is what needs to happen — not what the companies have been doing since April in the Bay area.

"We've tried to sit down with these guys ... and they don't want to meet with us," Minardi complains. "The rules are there. If you don't think they're good, let's change them. Come to our workshops and let's discuss [it] ... the system is a good system, believe it or not. If you look nationwide, we're considered one of the best in the country. But locally, everyone busts our chops because we've had issues," referring to the PTC's unsavory reputation based on scandals involving former leaders like Kevin White and Cesar Padilla. 

Minardi's gripes are similar to what other taxicab establishment figures have been saying for months. In some cases, it's been more than just verbally bashing Uber. Last week a caravan of taxi cab drivers in Washington D.C. left other commuters in gridlock by driving slowly and honking their horns in protest of the company, saying that they have an unfair advantage over regular cabs since they don’t have to follow the same rules and pay the same fees.

Last week Uber spokesperson Natalia Montalvo told CL that "we’ve had ongoing discussions with the Hillsborough PTC, but they’ve decided to protect an entrenched incumbent industry rather than serve in the best interest of consumers and drivers."

Lyft spokesperson Paige Thelan said, "we are always open with working with city leaders and working cooperatively to find a path forward."

Comments (12)

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The system is a good system? Bullshit.

It's absolutely terrible. For the average income level in this region, a cab ride costs anywhere from $40 to $60 from the DTSP to TPA - despite having direct access to interstates, and the distance being less than 15 miles. There is no justifying the price increases.

So they have an app? Big deal. It still goes through an archaic dispatching service that uses CB transmissions to contact their drivers. Or worse, their personal cell phones. They're also driving luxo-barges from the late 90's, that get something like 17 mpg. The taxi industry does not benefit the driver even in the slightest, as they are either stuck leasing an ancient, inefficient vehicle, or beholden to gas prices. The only people who directly benefit are the cab companies.

Lyft and Uber are the best thing to happen to the taxi industry - because maybe, it will force them to innovate and adapt from the 1950's model they've been surviving under.

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Posted by Jason Bruzzichesi on 07/03/2014 at 1:16 PM

Who is the $50 minimum fare for limos protecting; citizens or limousine companies?

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Posted by Joshua Streeter on 07/03/2014 at 1:19 PM

What all of the Tampa media ignores is that both of these companies are being banned all over the world, hell even Belgium kicked them out of the country. The biggest issue they are concerned with are their BS insurance policies. Many finance and insurance professionals have poured over the documents and their insurance does not cover them or the passengers if they are a "driver for hire". The insurance needed for that is separate from the insurance for the drivers. So it comes down to is if you get into an accident in a Uber or Lyft vehicle they will be no financial responsibility to either company or the so called insurance. Its funny too since Uber and Lyft are technically just the App companies, the contract these drivers to use the app service so technically they are not even Lyft or Uber employees. Research people.

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Posted by JT on 07/03/2014 at 2:00 PM

So is it Minardi or Menardi?

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Posted by Melody Horn Pumphrey on 07/03/2014 at 2:30 PM

Lessee ... I can call a cab in Tampa and they will either pick up the phone or not, show up in 45 minutes or not at all, and then I can pay through the nose for what's typically horrible service and bad driving

OR

I can use Uber or Lyft, have a car in a few minutes while paying a fraction of the price while getting an amiable, safer driver than any cab I've taken in town.

No wonder these guys are sweating so bad. If the cab companies are so upset, maybe they should spend more time and effort fixing their business than crying about the competition.

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Posted by David M. Jenkins on 07/03/2014 at 2:52 PM

You know that Minardi is making $100 per taxi/per day on each Taxi he owns? how much money is he making? how much money is he going to loose? Taxi drivers are the last slaves in this country!

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Posted by WasOne on 07/03/2014 at 3:07 PM

Traditional cab companies have had their chance. When I can wait on 7th Ave for a cab, and right before one comes, 2 girls in short shorts walk 10' in front of me and the cab driver picks them up. Then when I do manage to hail an available cab, when I tell him my destination (2.3 miles away as the crow flies) I get a "nope, get out!" Then when I call the cab company, they tell me they aren't dispatching to Ybor City and I need to hail one from 7th Ave, it's no wonder people are excited to jump to someone who acts like they want the business.

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Posted by Ric R on 07/03/2014 at 4:04 PM

The Minardi's who own a handful of taxi operations throughout the region have worked hard to corner the market, stifle competition, dodged a medical lawsuit because of insufficient PTC mandated insurance by declaring bankruptcy and used the PTC to create economic protection zones at the expense of the consumer wants no part of Uber.

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Posted by gunny on 07/03/2014 at 4:19 PM

dunno what the big deal is...hundreds of cabs in tampa...they're all waiting at tpa off boyscout and will sit there all day for the one big fare

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Posted by pltctytc on 07/03/2014 at 11:13 PM

It's a mafia concession and it will stay that way until crushed or ignored out of existence.

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Posted by Mark S. Hankins on 07/07/2014 at 9:32 AM

Because the most underreported news item about Uber is that Yellow Cab has an app too, and it's no fair they never got a pat on the back for it.

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Posted by Travis Moore Hearne on 07/07/2014 at 9:41 AM

My job requires travel to various cities. I have always dreaded using standard taxi service because most traditional taxi drivers are not friendly, barely speak English, and depend on you to tell them how to get to your destination. Their vehicles are often in questionable condition. I've had taxi drivers be on their cell phone the entire duration of the ride, ignoring me, and acting as if I was a nuisance, then expect a substantial tip on top of an already outrageous fare. Seriously ?? With Uber and Lyft, I have always had friendly, appreciative, respectful and safe drivers in clean, well kept vehicles that arrived promptly, and sincerely cared about getting me to my destination quickly and safely. They were polite and happy to have me as a passenger. Who wouldn't choose their service over a taxi ??
Move over taxi companies, the public deserves better than what you offer, and now it's available.

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Posted by Mary Alger on 07/15/2014 at 4:23 AM
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