Editorial: Regulators should ensure ride-share safety

Hillsborough County’s Public Transportation Commission on Wednesday will take another crack at bringing the unlicensed ride-share companies into the legal taxicab business. There is every reason to open up competition, but these companies must first comply with public health and safety standards.

The ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft have operated for months in Hillsborough without the necessary permits from the PTC, which licenses all for-hire vehicles in the county. The PTC is right that these services amount to the same thing as a taxicab, even if customers arrange their ride using a smartphone app and compensate the driver through an electronic pay wall.

The technology behind ride-sharing makes it a convenient and affordable option, but these drivers are still taking paying passengers on public roadways. The same safety standards that exist for taxi passengers must exist for those using ride-sharing services. The PTC needs to inspect these vehicles, conduct background checks on drivers and ensure that operators have adequate commercial insurance to cover accidents, injuries or damage. These are not onerous demands, just responsible ones. And if the ride-share companies won’t comply, they should not be allowed to remain in business.

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