WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, touring the D.C. headquarters of car service company Uber on Monday, called on local municipalities in Florida to do away with regulations that prevent new businesses like it from operating.
“One of the things that’s holding back innovation in America is regulations,” Rubio said during a press availability that took place in Uber’s new Washington offices, which are still under construction.
Uber allows users to bypass traditional taxis and order drivers of town cars, cabs and other vehicles with the click of a smartphone. No cash is exchanged; rides are billed automatically to the user’s credit card.
The popular service now operates in 33 countries — including in a variety of major cities across the United States, like Washington, New York and Los Angeles.
But some places, including cities in Rubio’s home of Florida, have strict regulations to protect the taxi cab industry that stop Uber from operating.
“Oftentimes,” Rubio said, “innovation is used by established businesses or established industry to keep competitors from ever happening.”
Uber’s East Coast general manager Rachel Holt explained the challenges the company is facing in Rubio’s state.
“In Florida, millions of residents and visitors don’t have access to transportation options,” she said. “The technology to improve Florida’s ecosystem has effectively been outlawed.”
Holt said over the last year, hundreds of thousands of people in Florida have tried to get Uber rides.
“In Orlando, if you call for a town car, and it shows up in five minutes, you legally need to wait 55 minutes just to get in that car,” she said. “In Tampa, if you want to take a ride down the block, it must cost $50. And in Miami, for one business to grow, another one has to shrink, because there’s an artificial cap on the number of sedan medallions that are allowed in the city.”
Holt said the company is working with state legislators in Tallahassee to change these regulations.
Rubio, who teaches a class in Miami at Florida International University, spoke of how his students have been frustrated over the issue. Some, he said, lament how friends can order Uber town cars in D.C but they have a hard time tracking down cabs after a night of going out.
“They wanted to know why that wasn’t possible in Miami,” Rubio said of using Uber. “And I explained to them that’s because of regulations. And not regulations that make any sense. Regulations that are solely being defended for the purpose of protecting an established business model at the expense of competition.”
“And suddenly, I had a bunch of 20- and 21-year-old anti-regulatory activists on my hands,” Rubio said with a laugh.