Uber, Lyft get tentative PUC permission to operate in Allegheny County
Drivers for ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft can operate in Allegheny County without fear of citations for at least two months, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission ruled on Thursday.
Several commissioners scolded the companies, through which users hail rides with a smartphone app, for operating for months without PUC approval, but voted 5-0 to allow them to operate for 60 days. Long-term permits are pending with the regulatory agency.
“I'm going to go back to some of the past sins of these entities, where you were advised back in March to follow certain protocols established by the commission and you opted not to. Today, you're getting a chance to take the mid-term exam over, by the five of us agreeing unanimously to support this application,” PUC Chairman Robert Powelson told the companies.
“I don't expect any thank-you notes from these entities. What I expect you to do is work with our Bureau of Transportation Safety and get yourself compliant so you can do business here.”
The commission approval is contingent upon several conditions:
• Vehicles must follow PUC safety standards that preclude a driver from using a vehicle more than eight years old or with more than 100,000 miles;
• The vehicles must be properly marked with a placard;
• Drivers must have valid driver's licenses and be 21 or older, and carriers must conduct criminal-history checks on drivers;
• The companies' insurance policies must provide primary coverage when drivers are working and meet PUC coverage standards;
• Companies must direct drivers to notify their own insurers in writing of their intent to drive for a ride-share service.
PUC officers will enforce the conditions, the commission said. Until the conditions are met in writing, a cease-and-desist order remains in effect.
A spokeswoman for Lyft said her company would comply with the requirements. An Uber spokesman said that company is reviewing them.
“The PUC has recognized that regulations can and should be modernized to allow innovative industries to thrive, while maintaining the highest level of public safety,” Lyft spokeswoman Paige Thelen said.
“Common sense prevailed, and we applaud the PUC for recognizing the critical need for safe, reliable transportation options in Pittsburgh,” Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said.
Commissioners emphasized their approval is temporary and that legislative action likely is needed for permanent approval. A bill pending in Harrisburg would amend regulations to allow ride-sharing services, but the full Legislature doesn't return until September and has only one session day scheduled after October.
“Now, it's about moving forward and trying to get legislation passed,” said Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, a primary sponsor of the bill. “To get it through in September and October, it will need to be fast-tracked.”
Less clear is the fate of 32 citations issued to Lyft and Uber drivers by a PUC enforcement officer for operating illegally. The PUC proposed fines of $1,000 for each day of those operations. Agency spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said officials haven't decided whether to withdraw the citations.
The drivers are on track for hearings before a magistrate. One driver reached by phone would not comment.
Lyft and Uber drew the ire of traditional taxi companies who want their competition to be subject to rules and regulations they must follow.
Jamie Campolongo, president of Yellow Cab, did not return a call. His company started an app-based system called Yellow Z, which awaits PUC approval.
“(The approval) is fine. We love competition, but there has to be a level playing field,” said Chuck Half, manager of projects and productivity for VETaxi, owned by Star Transportation. “They have to have the same (fees and taxes) on par with ours.”
Uber and Lyft, based in San Francisco, have tangled with regulators in more than a dozen cities. In most cases, the companies continue operating despite orders to cease, citations and fines.
Among their boosters are zealous drivers and riders, and politicians such as Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.
“I want to thank the Public Utility Commission for clearing the way for ride-sharing services to operate,” said Peduto, who vowed to “keep working with the PUC and others in Harrisburg to allow for them permanently.”
Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Student ‘geek squad’ to help train Steel Valley classmates on iPads
- Road, entrance may ease traffic, Dayton Fair officials say
- Steelers’ Harrison awaits go-ahead from Tomlin before practicing
- One Direction brings the thrills to Heinz Field audience
- 4 ejections, benches-clearing scrum mark Pirates’ win over Reds
- Law enforcement often feels overwhelmed by Mon Valley’s heroin epidemic
- Steelers notebook: WR Bryant sidelined after minor procedure on right elbow
- Inside the Steelers: Roethlisberger strong in goal-line drills
- Pa. breeding ground for corruption, experts say
- Slot cornerback Boykin should give Steelers options in secondary
- Inaugural Geibel STEM camp gives pupils interactive, fun science experience