TAMPA, FL (January 7, 2014) – EventFest, Inc. and Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla are pleased to introduce Ride Command for the 2014 Gasparilla Parade of the Pirates. The RideCommand app offers upscale car service in seconds.
RideCommand's app allows customers to request either an immediate pickup ("Ride Now") or a scheduled ride in the future ("Ride Later") where upscale car services compete for your business. Users can enter a Tampa pickup location, destination, the number of passengers, type of vehicle and when the service will be needed. RideCommand’s revolutionary bidding technology will summon all the drivers to a fair fight, putting the best one in front of the user. RideCommand’s app is available on both iPhone and Android devices. For more information visit www.RideCommand.com
From now through the 2014 Gasparilla Pirate Fest on January 25th, 2014 customers may use the discount code “GASP” for 10% off of RideCommand’s services. Additionally, they can check out the Official Gasparilla Pirate Fest Facebook page to enter for a chance to win FREE rides for a year!! Visit www.Facebook.com/GasparillaPirateFest to enter.
“We are happy to introduce this new service for our Gasparilla participants and guests to enjoy Tampa’s Gasparilla events responsibly and get home safely” said Darrell Stefany, President of EventFest, Inc.
“People want a convenient way to book a car service that also gives them flexibility when it comes to choices – RideCommand provides that positive experience,” said Alan Stapleton, founder and CEO of RideCommand.
RideCommand allows the customer to choose between Luxury and Economy services for car service. The Luxury option will use luxury sedans and SUVs, such as a Cadillac Escalade or a Mercedes Sedan. The Economy option will use Cab Plus Taxi Services and their Lincoln Town Cars. Either service will arrive to pick you up with safe, comfortable and clean cars with courteous drivers.
The Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest will take place on January 25, 2014. For additional information or to purchase Gasparilla Invasion Brunch, Gasparilla Parade tickets and/or officially licensed Gasparilla merchandise, please log on to www.GasparillaTreasures.com. Tickets can also be ordered over the phone by calling EventFest’s Gasparilla Ticket Reservation Line at (813) 251-8844. A ticket representative will be available between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.
Sponsors under agreement as of the date of this release include: Gasparilla Pirate Fest
Title Sponsor: Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa
Adams & Reese, LLC; Alley • Clark • Greiwe; Amalie Oil Company; Anheuser Busch, Inc; Buffalo Wild Wings; Carey O’Malley Whitaker & Mueller, P.A.; Catering By the Family; CENTRO Tampa; Chevrolet; The City of Tampa; Clear Channel Radio of Tampa Bay including: WBTP-FM 95.7 The Beat, WFLZ-FM 93.3 FLZ, WFUS-FM US 103.5, WMTX-FM MIX 100.7, 620 WDAE The Sports Animal, 970 WFLA FOX Newsradio; Diageo - Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum; Hadlow Family; Hillsborough County; National Brokerage Services, Inc.; PNC Bank; Professional Insurance Center; Sunset Salsa; The Tampa Bay Buccaneers; The Tampa Tribune; TBO.com; Telemundo Tampa; Turner Family; Visit Tampa Bay, WFLA – TV News Channel 8 and Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla
Tampa’s Gasparilla events, including the Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza, Gasparilla Pirate Fest and Gasparilla’s Outbound Voyage are marketed, managed and produced annually by EventFest, Inc. of Tampa.
1200 W. Cass Street, Suite 110
Tampa, FL 33606
The inefficiency of the premium private car service industry stunned Alan Stapleton soon after he arrived in Minneapolis for a June 2012 wedding.
The process, says Stapleton, was agony. He made at least seven phone calls, wasted two hours, and, with no method to price shop a simple hotel trip, he was still stuck at the airport. A retired federal government official-turned-entrepreneur, Stapleton decided to do something about it. Says Stapleton: “It struck me that this could be a lot better than it was.”
Stapleton says he spent the plane ride back home, to Baltimore, drawing up ideas “on the proverbial napkin” of how he could improve the private car service industry. The result is RideCommand, an Annapolis, Md.-based mobile app car service firm that made its nationwide debut in Tampa in mid-October.
The Tampa area will be the laboratory for RideCommand’s patent-pending technology that utilizes a reverse bid system, where companies compete for a customer’s business. “I have a model where the consumer is in charge,” says Stapleton, assistant director of the U.S Government Accountability Office at the peak of his Beltway career. “It puts you in charge of your own fleet.”
The RideCommand app and website allows users to virtually make a ride request. That request goes out to car services registered in the RideCommand system. RideCommand, so far, has agreements with about 30 Tampa-area local licensed luxury car services. Most of those are one- or two-vehicle services. Traditional metered taxi companies aren’t part of the RideCommand network.
The companies in the RideCommand system bid on the customer in a reverse auction format where prices go down, not up. The passenger, finally, gets to select the winner among all the bidders. RideCommand takes a commission, up to 12% of the fare, from the firm that wins a bid.
The rationale for the reverse-bid strategy, Stapleton says, is simple: A company with a vehicle on the way back to base without passengers would rather get a low bid, and some revenue, than sit empty. At least that’s what Stapleton hopes will happen. “We don’t know how it will work,” Stapleton says. “It’s never been done before.”
Other challenges loom for RideCommand. The firm, for one, must prove a sustainable need exists for the service that can be duplicated in other markets. “For some people it’s too much technology,” says Stapleton, who invested about $250,000 of his own money into the business.
Another hurdle is regulation. That comes mainly from the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, which maintains a $50 minimum fare for all premium car rides, no matter the distance. A premium car is basically a vehicle without meters. The Hillsborough PTC regulates all vehicles for hire, from taxis to tow trucks.
The $50 rule can sink RideCommand if customers balk at the minimum fee. One way RideCommand navigated the rule is a partnership with Tampa-based Cab Plus, which combines luxury sedans with a metered pay system, says owner and CEO Brook Negusei. Cab Plus, the biggest company RideCommand works with, has about 35 vehicles.
So RideCommand users can book a ride on Cab Plus sans the $50 minimum. “We are a luxury cab service,” Negusei says. “We charge a little more than a taxi, but less than a limo.”
The $50 rule nonetheless drove another car service app, San Francisco-based Uber, out of town during the Republican National Convention in August 2012. Uber departed when it deemed the $50 fee unworkable.
Stapleton is confident he can avoid that result. He hopes success in Tampa will catapult the firm to success in other markets, including Miami, Orlando, Baltimore and Philadelphia. “Tampa is a nice place to crawl before you walk,” says Stapleton, “and a nice place to walk before you run.”
The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission is on a possible road to extinction.
That could happen under new legislation proposed by State Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, and State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. The legislators filed a bill Oct. 30 that would put the existence of the PTC up for local referendum. The Hillsborough legislative delegation would have to approve the bill first. Then it would go to Tallahassee, where both chambers and the governor would vote on it. If it passes there, local voters could decide the PTC’s future.
The Florida Legislature created the PTC in 1976. Many large cities have similar commissions, designed to ensure safety in a vehicle for hire.
But in many of those cities, and now in Tampa, transportation commissions have become magnets for anti-competition criticism. The Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice, for example, sued the Hillsborough PTC earlier this year, a case that remains active. The institute contends the commission’s $50 minimum fare rule for non-metered vehicles is an example of “burdensome regulations and restrictions not common in other places.”
The PTC has also faced criticism on other fronts. A previous executive director left under controversy over being paid when he was out sick. And former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White was imprisoned for a bribery scandal that partially involved the PTC and a towing service.
You have probably seen those black sedans or SUVs sitting at the popular transportation areas waiting for a person to request car service. Often, those vehicles’ engines are running to enable the driver to access his or her radio, phone or air conditioning. All of that idle time wastes an enormous amount of gasoline, resulting in dangerous emissions to the air that we all breathe! Smog and air pollution in some cities is a health crisis during the hot summer months when the air often “stagnates”.
By using RideCommand, you can help the environment! Our service can greatly reduce the amount of “downtime” for car service companies. In fact, many companies experience “downtimes” that can exceed 70%.
For example, let’s envision a town car driver who has just dropped off a passenger at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. and is about to return empty to the company headquarters an hour away in Virginia. To avoid returning with an empty car, the driver decides to wait for an hour in hope of picking up another rider. During that hour, the driver is running his engine, polluting the air and wasting gasoline. He gives up after an hour and still returns with an empty car.
Parked just behind that driver is another town car whose driver also just dropped off a passenger at the Verizon Center. Rather than returning empty or idling in his car while waiting for another rider, he decides to try the brand new RideCommand iPhone app. Using this app he searches for all ride requests within a few miles of his location (the driver can select the area to be searched). He finds that there are 4 current ride requests waiting for companies to submit bids and one ride request that has bids submitted.
He clicks on this request that has bids and sees that the rider is a few blocks away and his destination is very near the company location where he would otherwise be returning empty. He decides to submit a bid that is $5 lower than the current bid of $90.
Immediately he is notified that the rider has selected him as the winning bidder and he leaves the Verizon Center to pick up his rider. As he leaves, he tips his hat to the other town car still sitting empty with his engine idling.
So what are the different outcomes for these two drivers? The driver without our iPhone app has wasted an hour burning gasoline, polluted the air unnecessarily and returned empty. The driver using RideCommand’s iPhone app has the clear advantage.
So for your next night on the town or special occasion (wedding, birthday, prom, party), register on RideCommand.com and start helping both the environment and your wallet!
The Eye is always looking to promote innovation and new ways of doing business and providing services. Monday the Eye caught up with just such an entrepreneur, Alan Stapleton, President and Founder of RideCommand, a new way for on demand limo service in Tampa. RideCommand was launched in Tampa first and uses your smartphone or tablet for a fast and easy way to order your on demand limousine ride when you need and when you want it.
Stapleton, who resides in Maryland, was in Tampa for a few days to work with his local team here and promote his business and he graciously gave us his time for an interview. Please check out the RideCommand website for more information and how to download their app to your iPhone, iPad, or Android device. Then try out the service with an easy click on your phone or tablet. We wish Stapleton the best and we look forward to catching up again with him and hearing about RideCommand's success.
This is a reminder too that transportation solutions are a hot issue today. The Eye previously wrote a post about the burdensome regulations and ethical challenges of Hillsborough county's Public Transportation Commission aka PTC. We are the only county in the state that has this type of commission and the PTC has a history of inhibiting innovation and entrepreneurs like Stapleton. RideCommand is currently trying to work through some of the issues. Technology will continue to move forward and it's time to get rid of the archaic regulatory inhibitors to new services providing more choices. We all want new businesses here and it's the free markets that should determine whether they are successful and thrive. Now's the time - let's simplify regulations that inhibit new technologies and businesses like RideCommand.
Here in Hillsborough County, we watch our County Commissioners espouse their proposals for economic development. They have tied transportation to economic development and have doled out our tax dollars to bring the big box Bass Pro Shop Sporting Goods store to Hillsborough. They are now proposing subsidies, tax breaks, tax credits to large companies who want to bring their businesses and jobs to Hillsborough like Amazon.
But what about new, innovative companies who also want to bring their business to Hillsborough County but burdensome regulations are keeping them out? We know what happened last year to Uber during the RNC convention. The Tampa Bay Times wrote last year:
While Republican National Convention delegates decry excess governmental regulation, a case study is unfolding outside: a dispute between Hillsborough County regulators and a techie taxi startup in town for the convention.What the company can't offer? Low prices. Hillsborough County regulations set Uber's minimum fare at $50, three times as pricey as the service's minimum fare in New York City, London, Paris or practically anywhere else.
At the Eye, we agree with what Rachel Holt, general manager for Uber's DC operations said,
"There is an important role for regulations, and that's protecting the public … not blocking competition."
Well, Uber left town during the RNC, run out by the heavy handed anti-competitive regulations of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, and headed to Charlotte for the DNC.
Also recall the entrepreneurial company Hop Tampa who was providing free golf cart shuttle services downtown. Hop Tampa free shuttle cart downtown shutdown.
In 2009, Hop Tampa was shut down by the dubious Public Transportation Commission. The Tampa Bay Times article Plug pulled on free shuttle service by downtown Tampa's electric carts reported:
Hillsborough County transportation officials Wednesday slammed the brakes on electric cart operators providing shuttle services downtown.The Public Transportation Commission ruled that the companies run vehicles for hire, which means they need permits to stay in business.
And all it took was a call from a local taxi cab company as TBT went on to state:
The board made the decision after hearing from an attorney for Yellow Cab.
Creative Loafing also reported on the shutdown with Free rides short-circuited as Tampa kills green downtown shuttle service:
It is a classic Catch-22; electric vehicles operators downtown say they were told they didn't need permits because they didn't charge for their rides (they make their money from advertising on the vehicles, and the drivers get tips), and since the PTC tightly controls taxi permits, they likely wouldn't be able to get them anyway. But even though they don't charge fares and mostly provide rides that the for-pay taxis won't/don't give (short hops that aren't profitable), the PTC put them out of business after cabbies complained.
Apparently these private sector, entrepreneurial golf cart transportation services were being well received in downtown and south Tampa. They were free to riders because they used advertising on their vehicles. They provided a service for those short hop trips that taxi cabs do not want anyway. The taxi's want the longer haul trips, especially from the airport.
The question that needs answering is what is the purpose of the PTC? Hillsborough County is the only special district in Florida that regulates for-hire vehicles with such a commission. It regulates taxi cabs, limousine services, towing services and ambulance services. PTC regulations force for instance Tampa limo services to charge a minimum $50 charge to step your leg into a limo, even if you only want to go 10 miles down the road. PTC regulations are inhibiting ambulance service competition in the county. PTC regulations are driving out innovative, entrepreneurial businesses like Uber and Hop Tampa.
Now another innovative new company, RideCommand, is trying to pick up where Uber was forced out.
RideCommand - new phone apps
RideCommand App The Tampa Bay Times reports today Company offers luxury car rides via smartphone app: RideCommand lets customers use a mobile phone app to order a ride right away for a predetermined price or put future rides out to bid to get the lowest price possible. President and Founder Al Stapleton, who retired from the US GAO, developed the concept and stated this in the Times article: "We're giving consumers the power to choose," he said. "We think people can ride for less if they're in charge.""We feel like the market should determine the price, not the government," said Stapleton, who is funding the company himself.
Here at the Eye, where we support free markets, innovation, competition and entrepreneurs agrees, but the power and regulatory control of the PTC lurks as the Times article goes on to state: He (Stapleton) also hopes pressure from customers could eventually persuade the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission to reduce or eliminate the fare minimum — an effort that proved futile for Uber.
Every other county in the state has figured out how to ensure safety, provide choice and competition around these vehicle for hire transportation services. For example, if you want to start a new transportation service in Pinellas County you can easily go to the their website and obtain a Public Vehicle Certificate.
Last but not least is a reminder of the corruption and ethical issues associated with this commission. Former County Commissioner and PTC board member Kevin White went to prison for bribery and corruption charges associated with this board. Current Hillsborough County Commissioners who sit on this board, Victor Crist and Ken Hagan, receive campaign donations from the very companies they regulate. The smell of this Commission is so strong the Tampa Tribune recently weighed in with their Op-Ed, Dump public transportation commission.
Corruption, Cronyism and inhibitor of Competition are the 3 C's associated with the Public Transportation Commission. Perhaps while the County Commissioners are handing out our tax dollars to some large companies, they can reign in the PTC too.
America's free-market system is well and fine unless it hurts the bottom line of Hillsborough County's taxicab industry. That's the guiding ethos of the Public Transportation Commission, the agency that oversees for-hire vehicles in Hillsborough. The Legislature should disband the agency and hand its narrow task to county government.
The chauffeur service RideCommand is trying to bring a service to Hillsborough that a similar company tried to and failed because of a PTC rule that artificially limits competition for the benefit of the cab industry. As the Tampa Bay Times' Susan Thurston reported last week, RideCommand lets customers use a mobile phone app to order a ride right away, or to put future rides out to bid to get the lowest price. But premium car services, which operate limousines and high-end SUVs and sedans, are prohibited from soliciting walkup customers on the street. The PTC requires they charge a $50 minimum fare, even for short distances, which serves only to protect the taxis.
The PTC says it is trying to separate everyday taxi service from the luxury providers, but that makes no sense. The private car services are subject to the same regulatory oversight as the taxis — the same inspections to ensure the vehicles are safe, the same background checks on the drivers. The difference is that the taxicabs benefit from a publicly imposed price support that gives the taxicabs a $50 jump on any business. The rule was suggested by the industry (no shock there). And PTC staff oppose the mobile phone service on the ridiculous notion that it disenfranchises poor people who need a hired ride but lack a smartphone.
The price-fixing policy is wrong, bad for consumers and business and counterproductive in terms of what customers are looking for today when it comes to value and convenience. It also undermines the great need to get the taxicab operators to improve their levels of service. If clients want to hire RideCommand, they should be able to under the terms the company offers, not beholden to the arbitrary rules the PTC imposes that have nothing to do with safety.
The commission was created by a special legislative act, and its stand-alone authority to regulate for-hire vehicles in the county is the only one of its kind in the state. But the PTC does nothing special; dissolving the agency and moving its handful of staff under county government would be easy and make the operation more efficient and accountable. The inspections would go on, but the move would bring greater public scrutiny to a pricing and regulatory scheme that fosters an uneven playing field. The bill to disband the commission should be a priority of Hillsborough's delegation for next year's legislative session.
The chauffeur service RideCommand has motored into the Tampa Bay area in hopes of picking up where a similar company called Uber left off. • RideCommand lets customers use a mobile phone app to order a ride right away for a predetermined price or put future rides out to bid to get the lowest price possible. • President and founder Al Stapleton developed the concept on the belief that people should be in the driver's seat, even if they are sitting in the back of a Lincoln Town Car. "We're giving consumers the power to choose," he said.
"We think people can ride for less if they're in charge."
Based in Annapolis, Md., the company seeks to build off the success of Uber, a popular private car service that also works through a smartphone application. Based in San Francisco, Uber came to Tampa last summer for the Republican National Convention but left soon after because of a Hillsborough County-mandated $50 fare minimum on limos and other premium cars.
While the requirement poses a challenge, Stapleton thinks he can succeed through long-distance trips and customers willing to pay more for clean, upscale vehicles and courteous drivers. He's targeting trips from Tampa International Airport to the beaches, as well as bachelorette parties and other special events needing a premium car for a few hours. He also hopes pressure from customers could eventually persuade the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission to reduce or eliminate the fare minimum — an effort that proved futile for Uber.
"We feel like the market should determine the price, not the government," said Stapleton, who is funding the company himself.
Originally called Car Fare Compare, RideCommand has partnered with about 30 licensed luxury-car drivers on the county's approved list of providers. Stapleton met Moty Bernstein, a premium-car operator in Tampa and Philadelphia, at a trade show and decided to pilot the service in Tampa, a sprawling region with limited mass transit.
Bernstein said RideCommand could boost business for premium vehicle drivers, who are legally prohibited from soliciting clients on the street and often sit idle. While not a fan of the fare minimum, he estimates any limo trip beyond about a 5-mile radius exceeds $50. Going from the airport to the Loews Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete Beach, for example, costs about $75.
"There's a major level of hunger in the market," said Bernstein, who offered rides through Uber during the RNC. "There's a lot of what we call 'dead weight,' meaning you have nothing sitting in the back."
Stapleton, 64, came up with the idea after having a bad experience trying to order a premium car for a two-hour trip while in Minnesota. After two hours of calling companies and getting different prices, he got stranded at the airport and had to flag down a cab.
In the works for about a year, the RideCommand app launched Wednesday for iPhones and should be available for Androids later this month. Customers will also be able to order rides through the website ridecommand.com. If successful, the service could expand to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington and Miami.
Retired from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Stapleton thinks RideCommand improves upon Uber and other companies that allow riders to track, book and pay for car services using their smartphones. RideCommand's fares don't change during the ride if there's traffic or a delay, and gratuity isn't built into the price. It charges drivers a 12 percent commission — less than most competitors — and lets customers take bids for any trip scheduled three or more hours in advance. If you need a car sooner than that, you pay a fixed price.
Uber officials say succeeding in the Tampa area won't be easy. Rachel Holt, Uber's East Coast regional manager, said the company did "fantastic" during the convention but left largely because of the "unprecedented'' $50 fare minimum. None of Uber's nearly 20 other markets nationwide has a similar provision.
"We would love to be in Tampa permanently, but when you have a minimum fare of $50, I don't believe I can develop a service that's in the best interest of riders or drivers," she said.
Hillsborough adopted the fare minimum several years ago as a way to separate taxicabs from limos and other luxury rides, said Public Transportation Commission chief inspector Mario Tamargo. Any reduction or change would have to be approved by the seven-member commission of city and county elected officials.
That isn't likely to happen any time soon. Rob Searcy, president of Gulf Coast Transportation/United Cab, one of the area's largest taxi companies, said he opposes changing the fare minimum, especially if it helps a company seeking to take away some of the affluent business that pays with a credit card.
"I don't know why anyone would want to change the rules for someone who is not a player," he said. "They want to skim off the cream of the business without any effort."
He argues companies like Uber, which has struggled to meet regulatory approval in some cities, don't generate new business for car companies. They just poach existing rides. He also doesn't understand the appeal of using a phone app over calling a live dispatcher.
But Stapleton said mobile technology is here to stay and the transportation industry needs to adjust regulations to accommodate concepts aimed at helping consumers. In the end, he hopes RideCommand changes people's behavior and encourages them to think beyond using their car as the only way to get around.
Would you walk into a store and buy something expensive before you knew the price? Most people would not. But that is what many of our competitors make you do. They are in charge, not you.
To illustrate this point, consider what happens to “George” when he wants a ride from downtown to the airport. He begins by opening the app on his smart phone from one of our competitors and entering his request. Within a few minutes, George has a car on the way to pick him up.
When George gets in the car, he does not know what price he will pay at the end of his ride. The company is not willing to risk profits due to circumstances they cannot predict (e.g., traffic delays, driver gets lost, or traveling less than 11 miles per hour!). Instead, they shift that risk to you. They do this by setting their prices based on time and distance travelled so that you pay the higher price.
Why should you pay for these uncertainties when you are selling something that companies desperately want - riders? A better, more efficient model is one that shifts the risk from you to the company that wants to earn your business.
RideCommand’s model does not charge extra for traffic delays or if the driver gets lost or other uncontrollable factors. If George had used our app to request the limo, he pays only the “winning bid” price or the flat price from the company he selected - no more and no less. And he knows that price before he is picked up. That is why our motto is “Ride for Less When You’re in Charge.”
Great news for business and leisure travelers, as well as car service providers in Tampa Bay, Florida! RideCommand starts operation in July 2013.
RideCommand has developed a smartphone app and website that will enable customers to pay less for their limo service while the car companies compete in a “reverse bidding” system to obtain customers’ business.
The highlight of this unique approach is the reverse bidding system that allows consumers to ride for less while not having to compromise on the quality of service. Moreover, the drivers increase their profits by avoiding empty return trips back to base and generate additional revenue from not having to wait long periods for riders.
It is a competition where everybody wins!
Learn more about the reverse bidding process and the smartphone app by clicking here.