Dispatches from the Sunshine State

Once again Hillsborough County politicians push Tampa backwards

Can anything cool happen in Hillsborough County without county leaders overstepping their authority and crushing it?

I’m not hopeful.

As you may have read by now, the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission — made up of politicians and wannabe politicians — effectively shut down two electric car businesses this month when they succumbed to pressure from the cab industry.

I wrote about downtown Tampa’s electric vehicle service last year. I thought the electric-powered golf cart transport was charming, environmentally-friendly and made Tampa unique. Plus, the service was free. Since they didn’t charge for rides, the electric vehicle companies did not need the transportation permits cab companies needed. The electric vehicle companies made money by the advertising on the carts and tips from passengers. For a downtown worker wanting to get to Rick’s on the River or a tourist wanting a ride from Jerk Hut to the Times Forum, these vehicles seemed the way to go.

But of course Hillsborough County politicians can’t let a good thing last for long. Prompted by complaints from (overpriced) cabbies, the PTC decided to ban the electric vehicles citing safety and unfair competition. Unfair? How about the unfairness and cronyism inside the PTC?

Well now, after scores of citizens complained to the PTC, the commission is back-pedaling a bit. They want the vehicles back on the streets, they say, just with permits and insurance. But who knows if those requirements could keep these entrepreneurs sidelined permanently.