Associations in North Carolina and Florida Find Success
Servicing 2012 Political Conventions
Members of the Western Florida Livery Association (WFLA) and Charlotte Regional Limousine Association (CRLA) have recovered from the success of both the Republican National Convention (RNC) and Democratic National Convention (DNC). It’s been a whirlwind of an election season and the conventions launched the country into the homestretch.
The RNC was held in late August in Tampa, Florida. There was a minor blip in the convention schedule as Hurricane Isaac approached the region, but after a brief recess, it continued as planned. More than 50,000 visitors were expected in the region for the event, many of them delegates, guest speakers, and members of Congress.
According to WFLA Vice President Dave Shaw, the association felt well prepared for the event considering the experience its members have had with the Super Bowl, which has been held in Tampa numerous times. “This was like having four Super Bowls in a row, it was that intense,” he says. “When people reserved vehicles for 24 hours, they used it for 24 hours. It was around the clock, and overall everyone is reporting that they had a lot of success.”
Leading up to major events, many cities have issues with organizing permitting, but WFLA members didn’t have much to complain about in this area. “Hillsborough County has a good structure on temporary permitting and officials set up an office near the airport, making it easy to obtain the permits you need,” Shaw says. “Our hands were tied when it came to the regulations for the event because most of the rules came from secret service. They set up a perimeter [about 12 block radius] around the St. Pete Times Forum and if you didn’t have a pass, you didn’t get in … no matter who you had in the car.”
Shaw says Uber entered the Tampa market only for the RNC. “Uber came in and said it wanted to provide service, so myself and a few other operators met with Uber and the Hillsborough director of transportation,” says Shaw. It was explained to Uber that it would need to abide by the $50 minimum required by law for any sedan trip, and if that law was broken, arrests would be made. “Uber abided by the law, came to the temporary permitting office, and signed up their chauffeurs,” says Shaw. “It worked out for a lot of the independent operators who had downtime. But after the convention, Uber pulled out.”
In Charlotte, the DNC was the largest event that city had ever seen. According to CRLA President Tom Holden, the DNC benefitted every single black car in Charlotte and beyond, and the one- and two-car operators were even able to have success working as affiliates for some of the national networks.
The CRLA faced a little bit of resistance from Charlotte when it offered assistance in preparing for the ground transportation logistics of such an event, says Holden. “It’s always better to have an association to handle the issues that come up because the city listens to the masses,” he says. “Despite our best efforts, the city passed some ordinances that made it almost impossible for us to operate, including expensive temporary permits and an excessive waiting period for hiring new employees.” Holden says before the DNC, it was upwards of 90 days before operators could put a new chauffeur behind the wheel, and currently it’s still around 45 days. “It created major delays. People need income. How can businesses and staff afford to wait that long?” he says.
These security measures added stress to the big event. “We were forced to play by the rules and obtain inspections and temporary permits—amounting to approximately $400 per vehicle—but organizations like Uber and WeDriveU were not made to do that,” says Holden. WeDriveU operated 100 vehicles during the DNC, and Uber contracted with a company for “taxi-like” rides with a $20 coupon in the DNC programs, according to Holden. “The CRLA is planning to meet with Charlotte officials and city council to discuss these issues.”
Holden is able to see many positives from the event in Charlotte. “Millions of dollars were spent in our industry, and we are thankful that the DNC landed in Charlotte. We as a professional industry can handle any size event, and we hope that in the future the city can allow us to do our jobs,” he says.
For more info about the CRLA, visit www.mycrla.com. Call Dave Shaw at
(727) 258-1237 for the WFLA.