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PUC urged to give Uber, Lyft emergency permits

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 4:54 p.m.
 

The state Public Utility Commission should grant emergency permits for ride-share companies Uber and Lyft to operate in Allegheny County, an agency bureau is recommending.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on Thursday on the recommendation from the PUC's Bureau of Technical Utility Services. A separate PUC division, the Bureau of Investigations & Enforcement, opposes the ride-share companies' request.

“The commission can accept, reject or modify the recommendations,” said PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher.

Kocher said conflicting bureau recommendations are not uncommon. The PUC has 13 bureaus and offices.

Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett declined to comment. A Lyft spokeswoman did not return a message.

The companies, which connect riders and drivers through smartphone applications, began service in Western Pennsylvania this year without seeking permission from or registering with the state. They applied in April for authority to run so-called experimental transportation network service and then sought emergency permits this month — Uber on July 2, Lyft on July 16.

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 that Uber and Lyft have ignored.

Their request to run experimental service is pending before the PUC's Office of Administrative Law Judge.

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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