Hillsborough Transportation Commission reverses itself on NEVs listen09/01/09 Mitch E. Perry
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A Hillsborough County transportation board today voted to rescind a previous vote on banning neighborhood electric vehicles, or NEVs inside the city of Tampa .
The vote by the Public Transportation Commission (PTC) came after nearly two hours of sometimes tortuous discussion.
Nearly three weeks ago, four separate NEV companies were kicked to the curb when the Commission voted to begin regulating such companies. An attorney, representing a taxi cab company, presented them with an ordinance asking them to do so, saying they could regulate the cars because they receive compensation through tips and ads.
The cars do not charge for rides to Ybor City, Channelside, or Hyde Park, but do accept gratuities.
When the PTC voted to regulate the NEV’s, nobody from that industry had been present at the meeting . The regulation vote essentially put them out of business, since they would need a permit to drive, when none were currently available.
John Bryne is an attorney with Green Go’s, one of the NEV companies. Byrne said that he didn’t believe the regulations were proper, and said he would go to court if necessary. Instead, he suggested getting a legal opinion from the Attorney General’s office, which county attorneys said might take months.
An issue that dominated the hearing was regarding insurance for the NEV’s. Todd Persico is with Hop Tampa. He said the insurance required to operate as a taxi cab was problematic.
As the question of insurance liability continued to be debated, Tampa city Councilman John Dingfelder asked if County Attorneys had researched how other cities with NEV’s, like St. Petersburg, handled the issue. Dingfelder said he had researched the city of Chicago and how they allow such NEV’s to operate.
At this point in the discussion, County Commissioner Rose Ferlita, who voted to essentially ban the NEV’s last month but has since said that was not her ultimate intention, suggested that the County could rescind their decision that the PTC had the authority to regulate the cars. And she suggested that the City of Tampa by ordinance could make a change much more immediate than any of the other options the County has.
However, John Dingfelder, a member of the Tampa City Council , acknowledged that bringing the NEV issue to the Council is no sure thing, since that body frequently is divided, with Dingfelder, Mary Mulhern and Linda Saul-Sena on the losing side of certain issues.
However, he said that if a resolution was sent to Mayor Pam Iorio, there might be a better chance of passage.
Ultimately, the Board then voted unanimously on two separate motions. The first was to rescind their earlier decision regulating the NEVs. They also voted to ask the Attorney General’s office for an opinion. They also asked that the NEVs make their customers sign a waiver of release to let them know that they are not insured to provide rides to residents throughout Tampa.
The 2nd motion was to ask the City of Tampa to review whether by ordinance they might more quickly move towards getting the NEVs back in business .