Washington was momentarily thrilled Friday to discover the beloved private car service Über would be available next week in Tampa at the Republican convention.
But then came the caveat, in tiny type: $50 is the minimum fare required by law in Tampa. A short ride through Tampa in the shiny, black sedan would still be luxurious, but certainly cost you.
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Residents of D.C. know this battle all too well. Last month, the D.C. city council tried to require the private car service to charge its riders at least five times the minimum cost of cabs as a way to protect the city's taxi service.
So the outrage over Tampa's $50 minimum was swift. "Tampa, your laws are stupid," wrote Liz Mair, a conservative communication consultant, on Twitter. "Really Über?...That's ridiculous," echoed Katie Harbath, who oversees policy at Facebook. "Ouch," wrote Annie Lowrey at the New York Times.
One Republican strategist said in an E-mail about the Tampa fee that he believed his party needs to "fight harder against these types of regulations on small businesses."
And then the buck-passing began.
Über responded to criticism by writing: "We tried our hardest to bring the minimum down, but Tampa law requires us to have a $50.00 minimum!"
When reached by E-mail, the city of Tampa passed the request along to Florida's Hillsborough county, because transit is regulated mostly at the county level.
Hillsborough County, though, said it was not involved, and directed a call to the county's public transportation commission.
The transportation commission, in turn, blamed the city's limousines.
"The minimum was raised to $50 a few years at the request of the limousine industry," said Mario Tamargo, chief inspector at the commission. "The theory was to keep sedan services separate from the cabs... and so sedans can make more money."
That is the same rationale the D.C. council used in its unsuccessful push to raise the minium for Über in Washington. The D.C. council had also argued Uber was unfairly undercutting taxis.
"Our local taxi service is HORRENDOUS!!" Tampa resident Allie McCabe said in an E-mail. "Tampa would be lucky to have Über around and reasonably priced to save the embarrassment our local taxi service will no doubt expose the city to during this event."
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