Maneuver Uber: How To Work Around Cities Fining Uber/Lyft Drivers

by Law Smith

This article-rant Uber/Lyft series applies to my city of Tampa, but It is applicable to many, many other cities.  Please don't leave the page because I live in Florida.

Part 1: How To Work Around Cities Fining Uber/Lyft Drivers

I read an article this fall about how our county’s Public Transportation Commission is fining Uber and Lyft driver for operating without the proper permit.  I remembered an article from this summer quoting the president of the underwhelming Yellow Cab company about how how they have an app too.  That childish logic made me laugh by myself while on the porcelain throne.  It must have been weird for my fiancé to hear me laugh from the bathroom. 

I heard the fines are increasing in frequency for car-sharing drivers. Uber and Lyft will pay for the citations for drivers that are fined.  That kind of righteous dick-waving against local governments in bed with terrible, obsolete companies makes me happy. It fires me up more than the Al Pacino Any Given Sunday monologue. 

I heard from several different friends, undercover cops were asking drunk people waiting for an Uber/Lyft driver who was picking them up.  The cops then fined the Uber/Lyft drivers continuing the city’s fundraising dance.  The logjam of assigning citations on access streets around Howard avenue, the strip of bars for 20 year olds and new divorcees, left drunk people with the option of waiting for a taxi or wandering the streets like a raccoon until they convince themselves to drive home. 

Much like speed traps at the end of hill, the city’s interest wasn't safety. The Abby Hoffman in me can’t stand an unjust stifling of progress and innovation.  I want to make sure the city can’t generate more revenue from the car-sharing apps.  What if my Uber/Lyft driver is my friend?  A cop can’t say we aren’t friends, and thus, I conduct the worst two-man improv sketch since I took classes at The Groundlings. 

When I enter an Uber/Lyft ride, the intro conversation is fairly blunt.  For instance, I Uber-ed a 20 minute ride from the Tampa airport to my apartment in Grand Theft Auto-esque Ybor City.  The conversion went like this:

Kevin: “Hey, are you Law?”

Law (getting in the front seat in the SUV): “Yeah, Kevin, right? Okay. I’m going to sit up front, if that’s cool? Cool.  I don’t want you to get pulled over and have an $700 ticket from this bullshit from the cops. If you do get pulled over, we’ll improv that we’re old work buddies.”

Kevin (thinks I’m anti-government weirdo): “Oh, okay. Wow, thanks. That’s cool. Sooooooo where did we work?”

Law: “We worked at an accounting firm, but we did business development because it was a big firm.  Most cops won’t know what to ask as a follow up.”

Kevin: “Oh, alright, we’ll I appreciate you trying to help me if that pops up. I know a bunch of drivers that get those tickets because they wait on kids on Howard Ave., and ask if they are waiting for an Uber or Lyft driver.”

Law: “Yup, that makes hockey-dad mad”

Kevin: “but both companies pay the fine. So that’s cool.”

Law: “Yeah, Uber has like $2,000,000,000 in funding, and Lyft has like $1,000,000,000 in funding. BUT, I don’t want the city to make $700 on something that shouldn’t be illegal in the 1st place. I get pissed thinking about how this city and state values building more and more highways than light rails or bullet trains.  Shit, I heard both counties around here haven’t even worked together to sync traffic lights for better flow. They add a bike lane and bike-share program, 5 years later than every other city, to extend a sloppy PR campaign for Rick Scott and his #ItsWorking campaign"

(weird silence)

Kevin (thinking that I am definitely an anti-gun nut): “Oh, yeah, fo sho. I just do this for fun after work. I just moved here from Michigan for a job in Clearwater. Its been a great way to meet people.”

Law: “Oh, that’s sweet.  I’ll give you free tickets to my next stand up show in town.”

Kevin: “Wait, YOU do stand up?? I thought you were some NRA guy or something”