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Lyft asks PUC for emergency authorization to offer service in Allegheny County

| Thursday, July 17, 2014, 6:27 p.m.

Ride-share company Lyft is seeking emergency authorization to operate in Allegheny County, documents filed on Wednesday with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission show.

“Lyft has demonstrated that the public has an immediate need for its transportation network service to improve transportation alternatives,” Harrisburg-based attorney Adeolu A. Bakare wrote on behalf of Lyft.

Lyft spokeswoman Paige Thelan did not respond to the Tribune-Review.

Lyft, along with ride-share company Uber, has been under fire since starting service in Western Pennsylvania early this year.

The PUC, which regulates traditional taxi and limousine companies, has cited 32 drivers, fined the companies a combined $225,000 and issued cease-and-desist orders against them. The San Francisco-based companies have continued to operate.

Both companies applied in April for authority to run so-called experimental transportation network service, arguing they should not be treated like traditional taxi and limo companies. Lyft and Uber use smartphone applications to connect drivers and riders.

PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said those requests are pending.

Uber sought emergency authority to operate on July 2. The commission's enforcement arm this week recommended against granting that permit but hasn't weighed in on Lyft's request. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and other local officials have urged the PUC to grant the emergency permits until state lawmakers can develop regulations for ride-shares.

The PUC's five commissioners will decide on both requests.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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