Hillsborough County Board to reign in NEVs

08/12/09 Mitch E. Perry
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For the past year and a half, Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, or NEVs, have been giving free rides to people in certain parts of Tampa, much to the consternation of taxi cab companies who believe they put them at an unfair disadvantage.

Because the rides are free, they’re not regulated.

But today cab companies won a victory when the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, or PTC, ruled that the car service does receive compensation, in the form of advertising and tips. That means they will soon be able to regulate the service.

For months, cabbies like Charles Smalling have come before the Commission, claiming that the cars, which look like stretched out golf carts, have an unfair advantage and have been hurting their business.

Smalling claims he’s also seen the cars driving faster than 35 miles per hour, which by law they are not allowed to do.

The Commission has debated for months on whether or not the NEVs are receiving compensation. Attorney Michael Moses said that the owners of the NEVs have admitted as much.

John Dingfelder is one of two Tampa City Council members who sits on the PTC. Earlier this year he brought the issue before the Council, but as PTC attorney Orlando Perez recounted, the Council said they wanted to wait for the Commission to act.

Attorney Seth Mills has defended Yellow Cab before the PTC in earlier actions. He argued that the board has dithered on the ruling on the issue for far too long, and that they needed to decide whether they had the authority to regulate the NEVs.

Chairman Kevin White asked Board Attorney Orlando Perez if it would be problematic to regulate the NEVs as taxis, since currently there is a cap on issuing new permits in the County for taxis.

Tampa City Council member Joseph Caetano said it was time for the PTC to act.

But Commissioner John Dingfelder, an attorney himself, took exception with the board accepting the options laid out by attorney Seth Mills, who was arguing that the board must regulate the NEVs.

Commissioner Rose Ferlita agreed with Joseph Catano that the Board should stop deliberating and start making decisions.

The Board voted 4-2 to agree that the NEVs do receive compensation, and thus are eligible to be regulated.

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