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EDITORIAL: Ridesharing networks could revive Tampa transit

ORACLE PHOTO/ ADAM MATHIEU

The ridesharing app Uber quickly gained popularity in 2013, having expanded to 22 countries and 60 cities by the end of that year, and New York Magazine was quick to predict that one day the company could take over the taxi system.
However, the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission is seeking to place regulations on Uber and other ridesharing services since many of the drivers fail to obtain proper certificates, licensures and insurance.
These services allow anyone to apply to be a driver. So long as they pass the company’s screening, drivers can use their own vehicles to pick up passengers who pay through an app, making this a more efficient model of transportation.
Forbes reports 90 percent of ridesharing users were picked up within 10 minutes of requesting a ride and two-thirds waited less than five minutes, while less than 40 percent of taxi users were picked up within 10 minutes.
Aside from being a convenient means for transportation, ridesharing is economically favorable as well. Fares vary by city, distance and vehicle; as a startup, Uber initially charged passengers roughly 50 percent more than a taxi service. However, the Huffington Post reported Uber fares were lowered this summer and are now 20 percent cheaper than a New York City taxicab.
Hillsborough County already has an awful transportation
system, especially when it comes to mass transit. The Brookings Institution ranked Tampa Bay’s public transportation system 93rd out of the 100 cities studied, saying it would take 96.7 percent of people more than 90 minutes to reach their place of employment.
Hillsborough County is in no position to shut down an option that could better its
transportation system.
The accessibility makes ridesharing popular among all demographics, but the cost is a notable benefit to college students. The USF Office of Financial Aid estimates students will pay $1,600 a year in transportation fees. The cost of non-resident student parking on-campus increased from $87 in the 2012-13 academic year to $183 in the 2014-15 year. Additionally, the average price of gas in Tampa is currently $3.25 per gallon, an increase of $1.44 in the last 10 years.
Tampa is not the only major city to lock horns with ridesharing services.
Car service regulations were strongly debated in Seattle last year in a situation similar to the current one occurring in Hillsborough. In July, Seattle council members voted 8 to 1 to legalize ridesharing networks in the city so long as they had appropriate documentation.
It may be long before county officials agree on regulations for networks such as Uber or Lyft, but the advantages could mean more than having another
transportation system available.
Ridesharing has been implemented around the world and could redefine transit systems. Allowing these companies to operate will not only provide citizens with more affordable options, it will also add Tampa to a list of cities that have decided to bring their transportation system into the 21st century.