Miami Operators, Police Seek To Bust More Illegals

LCT Staff
Posted on February 9, 2011

An influx of unregistered, unlicensed limousine operators has caused unfair competition in one of the world’s most popular oceanfront tourist areas and nightclub hotspots.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — On most nights along the world-famous South Beach, the action at trendy nightclubs and restaurants starts to pick up after 10 p.m. and last well into the pre-dawn hours.

But it’s also a “witching period” of sorts for South Florida chauffeured transportation operators, since that time frame also attracts the most illegal operators trolling for rides that undercut the business of legitimate operators.

To reduce such service intrusions from illegal operators, industry leaders recently sat down with officials from the Miami Beach Police Department and the Miami-Dade County Department of Consumer Affairs to come up with a better enforcement plan.

The result of the Jan. 26 meeting of the Miami-Dade Limousine Advisory Group is an enhanced program to train and assign more officers to patrol for illegal operators during the busy 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. timeframe, when many visitors and patrons are looking for rides to, from, and among South Beach hotspots, said Neil Goodman, the chairman of the advisory group and the owner and CEO of Miami-based Aventura Worldwide Transportation. Other participants in the meeting included the president of the Taxi Association, two Miami Beach police chiefs, and an official of the Passenger Transportation Regulatory Division of the Miami-Dade Consumer Services Department.

“We know rides are being lost every night. Fridays and Saturdays are especially out of control,” Goodman said. Illegal operators driving Lincoln Town Cars and stretch limousines commonly pick up riders for $20 and take them around to various locations around South Beach, he added.

“The number one issue is enforcement. Since the recession in 2008 and 2009, they’ve cut back,” Goodman said. “They used to have X amount, and now they are down to a handful. It’s nowhere near enough to cover what’s going on.”

As part of the new effort, Miami Beach police officers will get training from the Passenger Transportation Regulatory Division of the Miami-Dade Consumer Services Department, which regulates ground transportation. Officers will then train more officers so enforcement can be extended beyond the current 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. time frame. Officers will be able to write tickets and impound illegal operated vehicles.

The fine for a first offense is $1,000; for a second offense, $5,000; and a third offense would result in the revocation of the offender’s driver’s license. As an incentive for the Miami Beach Police Department to get officers trained under the county program, the department would get to keep 85% of all fines and collections resulting from citations of illegal operators.

“This new enforcement will substantially reduce the number of illegal for-hire vehicles in Dade County and hopefully if these “illegal” operators think they can bring their cars to Miami Beach, during special events or busy weekends, knowing now that an officer can and will cite them,” Goodman said. “Hopefully, they will think twice before they try and solicit rides on Miami Beach.”

According to the two-tiered chauffeured vehicle regulatory system of Miami-Dade County, luxury chauffeured sedans and SUVs each need a Luxury Sedan Permit (LSP), which are limited to about 500 vehicles in the entire county. The only ways to obtain them are to either buy a permit(s) from an existing holder(s) or buy a company that has multiple ones.

Stretch limousines, vans, and buses are required to operate under a separate Public Motor Carrier (PMC) permit that is like a master certificate. The holder of a PMC permit can operate multiple such vehicles under it. The number of PMC permits is now capped, which means new operators cannot get them until allowable PMC permits become available again.

There are no reciprocal agreements between Miami-Dade County regulators and counterpart agencies in nearby Palm Beach, Broward, and Monroe counties. Operators based in those South Florida counties must get Miami-Dade County permits to do business there.

— Martin Romjue, LCT editor

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