The bill before council would revise city code to allow limousines and other "black-car" transportation providers to charge by the mile instead of a fixed hourly rate.
It also would allow such services to pick up customers on-demand instead of requiring calls at least 30 minutes in advance.
Allowing the changes meant limousines and other higher-end transportation services would act as a "glorified taxi cab" without all of the regulation, said Michelle Riddle, general manager of the Northern Florida Transportation Group. The group operates Yellow Cab and Gator City Taxi, among others.
Approval also meant the black-car companies could "cherry pick" the neighborhoods they wanted to service. Taxi cabs must pick up "any customer in any neighborhood," she said.
Council member Richard Clark said by not requiring pick-up when called, companies could "redline" communities in Jacksonville that weren't as profitable.
Dozens of taxi cab drivers from different companies voiced similar concerns, with some calling for any vote to be deferred until a "middle ground" could be reached.
Others said the loss of bigger-money clientele — such as those attending the Florida-Georgia game and Jacksonville Jaguars games — would leave them with little.
But, three hours of public comment and debate still resulted in a resounding defeat when council approved legislation 15-2 to allow the changes. Clark and John Crescimbeni opposed.
Crescimbeni warned against possible legal action because the city would establish different sets of rules and regulations for one business — requirements for meters, rates posted and others — while not another that offers similar service.
"I think we have great exposure here," he said.
The move green-lights Uber, a transportation app company, to set up shop in Jacksonville and allows customers to arrange trips through their smartphones.
Visit Jacksonville is among Uber's supporters and Bill Prescott, speaking Tuesday on behalf of the organization's board, told council that the service is for a niche market and allows more options for people coming to town.
The lengthy conversation spurred another idea: deregulating the entire industry.
Council member Robin Lumb said he was "intrigued" by the idea and would soon revisit it to allow taxi cabs to be able to set their own rates.
Per past legislation, taxi cab companies tell the city their maximum rates for the year and keep them posted.
Limousine and other black-car services do not have to comply.
When he asked Brad Braddock, Checker Cab general manager, if such a move would help his business, Braddock replied deregulation is a "double-edged sword."
It would be good for managers, he said, but offer no protection to consumers.
Streams of taxi cab drivers approached City Council on Tuesday, asking the group to level the playing field and not allow unfair competition into their market.