The City of Pensacola has executed an “interim agreement” with ride-sharing company Uber allowing the company to operate at Pensacola International Airport, city officials said Thursday.
So-called “transportation network companies” like Uber have been a hot-button issue in Pensacola this year, with increasing debate over whether or not Uber is subject to the city’s taxicab laws, written long before the emergence of smartphones or ride-sharing apps. In particular, city ordinances heavily regulate the operation of vehicles for hire at the airport, explicitly preventing unpermitted operators like Uber from picking up passengers.
Apps like Uber essentially match drivers and potential passengers, allowing users to summon a driver using their smartphone. Payment is completed automatically using the information users enter while setting up an account. Though functioning in many ways as a taxi service, Uber has long insisted that it is a “ride-sharing” platform, exempt from local and state regulations on taxicabs.
Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward has previously stated his support for the company, and he toured Uber’s San Francisco headquarters earlier this year while in the city for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The Pensacola City Council held a workshop on the issue in August, and in September, City Administrator Eric Olson told council members that city staff was working to negotiate an interim agreement. That agreement, reached this week, allows Uber drivers to operate at the airport for four months in exchange for a one-time payment of $1,000 from Uber subsidiary Rasier, LLC.
— Ashton Hayward (@ashtonjhayward) June 22, 2015
Not everyone is happy about the move. Karen Locklear, general manager for Yellow Cab, called the agreement an “executive order” that “leave[s] the community and the council out of the process.”
“The powers that be in our city care very little for the businesses that have been here all along but Yellow Cab does not have paid lobbyists in the ears of our local administration,” Locklear said. “Uber however has been working City Hall with Cardenas Partners out of Tallahassee.”
Tucker Transportation Company, which owns Yellow Cab, began operating in Pensacola with horse-drawn carriages in 1902, and Locklear says that will continue. “Yellow Cab will continue to provide service to Pensacola and partner with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other organizations to ensure our community ties are strong.”
The agreement, along with Olson’s memorandum to the City Council, is included below: