Instead of adding new regulations for the popular ride sharing app Uber, the Sarasota City Commission decided to remove all regulations on any for-hire-vehicles inside of the city limits. Check out the video or explore the article below to learn more about how it went down.

It was standing room only at City Hall last night as the Sarasota City Commission met to discuss their plans to regulate Uber, a popular ride sharing app.

The proposed regulations, which had been discussed at length in two prior commission meetings, would have limited Uber rides from initiating inside of the city limits.

The rules would not however, have prohibited Uber drivers from picking people up elsewhere inside of Sarasota county, and then either driving them through, or dropping them off, inside of the city.

The tension was palpable before the meeting, as people debated how the Commission might rule. But in an unexpected turn of events, they decided to completely deregulate Uber and other ride sharing services, as well as any other taxi, limo or livery service providers as a whole. As long as they operate inside of the city limits that is.

They will instead, leave it up to the state and county to regulate these types of businesses, which honestly makes more sense. Especially considering that it would have been almost impossible to enforce the legislation the city was proposing. Not to mention the negative economic impact it would have on the area if Uber pulled out of Sarasota due to increased and unnecessary local regulations.

“We shouldn’t be defending the taxi cabs against their competitors!” proclaimed Commissioner Suzanne Atwell.

Atwell went on to tell the crowd that she had used Uber to get to work that evening, and planned to use it again to get home after the meeting. A statement which was met with enthusiastic cheers and applause from the audience. It would not be the last time the crowd erupted in support of deregulating the ride sharing app.

The Hall, which might typically be mistaken for a library during City Commission meetings, was buzzing with Uber supporters, local media and even some city employees who asked not to be mentioned by name. Apparently they had “no idea what this Uber thing was even about!”

Honestly, it’s hard for me to understand why Sarasota would want to take such a hard stance against ride sharing apps, especially this early in their development. It seems a little early to stifle the potential growth of something that is revolutionizing personal transportation as a whole across the nation.

But I think the council got the message loud and clear. There were numerous mentions of letters, emails, phone calls and other social communications from constituents who wanted to express their support for the ride sharing app. Many of which were no doubt prompted by Uber themselves through direct emails to their Sarasota users.

Before running out of City Hall with a couple of guys who looked like they might be legal counsel from Uber corporate, Christine Mitchell, the General Manager of Uber in Sarasota told us that she was “happy that the commission recognizes the opportunity for our driver partners here in Sarasota, and the value that they are providing to their community as a whole.”

However, as you might expect, when it comes to anything that resembles progress, some on the council were not convinced. In particular, commissioner Susan Chapman, who made multiple references to the idea that somehow Sarasota should be responsible for people’s safety while using Uber.

“I would like the public to be on notice” she remarked during open discussion, “that if they [the citizens of Sarasota] are raped or murdered, it’s their responsibility.” – A sound clip you can hear at the end of the video on this page. 

A comment which was met by laughter from the audience. Laughter might not have passed over so easily, if she hadn’t pressed that button in favor of deregulation. But even though there was hesitation, she did just that.

And at least on this day, it feels like the Sarasota City Council got something right. And for that, we should all give a little cheer! We should all get excited for the fact that we were able to act. That the community was able to mobilize and influence the decision making power of this City Council which has been so rigid in the recent past.

It is a testament to the possibility of progress. Something we are trying to foster here at the Sarasota Underground. So thanks for stopping by, and we hope you’ll come back soon. We promise, we’ll never charge you to read the content, and our only goal, is to creatively connect the members of our community.

Much love to Tyler McCool for the videography on this project.