Miami-Dade Commission approves Uber, Lyft services

MIAMI (WSVN) — The Miami-Dade County Commission has voted in favor of legalizing ride-sharing services in the county.

Commissioners voted on the future of both Uber and Lyft Tuesday evening and allowed them to do business on county roadways.

For the first time in Miami, Uber driver Val Llorente will be driving on the street legally. "It’s great. I mean, they did the right thing," he said. 

For the last two years, Llorente and thousands of other Uber and Lyft drivers have been technically breaking the law. They have been driving customers around but were unregulated by the county. "I feel a lot better," Llorente said. "Kind of load taken off from me."

He’s relieved after the Miami-Dade Commission decided to legalize ride sharing in a 9-2 vote. 

The vote came after hours of heated debate. During the meeting at at Stephen P. Clark Center, cab drivers wore yellow and sat on one side of the room, while Lyft and Uber drivers wore black and sat on the opposite side.

Drivers from both sides appeared at the center to voice their opinions before the vote. "Since Uber, I feel it’s very difficult to feed my family," said one taxi driver.

"We pay the county $625 a year … they pay noting," said another cab driver. "We pay $2 for each fare at the airport and $2 at the seaport and they pay nothing."

One woman defended Uber and Lyft and said, "Those of us who have utilized this service in other major, metropolitan cities for years wonder why it’s taken so long."

The cab drivers were not happy. "These folks have spent so many millions of dollars lobbying, we just can’t compete with them," said cab company owner Frank Hernandez.

Some, including Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez aren’t sympathetic. "The people of Miami-Dade County want this. I want this," he said. "I think we need to enter the 21st century. If they had provided good customer service all along, they wouldn’t be in this."

However, others like Diego Feliciano, the President of the South Florida Taxicab Association disagrees with Gimenez. "What he’s feeding these people up there is an unregulated industry that does not have the proper insurance to operate in Dade County," he said. "They’ve been illegal since they came here, and they’re still illegal. I think Uber will self-destruct in the next 18 months."

Uber said they have at least 10,000 drivers in Miami-Dade County, and Uber driver Llorente thinks the service is only going to get bigger. He was back on the road right after the meeting and has one message for the angry cabbies. "I’ll just tell them, ‘Come on board. Come over to Uber and sign up for Uber.’ We’re here to stay," he said.  

That night, taxi cab drivers said they were considering a lawsuit against the county because they still don’t feel they have a level playing field with Uber and Lyft. In a statement the following morning, attorneys for the cabbies announced $1 billion lawsuit against the county.