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Uber manager again refuses to reveal ridership numbers

| Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, 1:15 p.m.

A manager for ride-sharing service Uber again refused to divulge the company's ridership numbers on Tuesday in testimony before state Public Utility Commission administrative law judges.

“I'm not authorized to disclose the information in this setting,” said Matthew Gore, a former Uber Pittsburgh manager now working for the company in Florida.

A two-judge panel heard two days of testimony Downtown on Uber's application for a permanent license to operate in the state. Several taxi companies across the state protested the application. Uber connects drivers and riders through a smartphone application.

During the first day of testimony, tempers flared over Gore's refusal to provide ridership numbers and other information. The taxi companies' attorneys asked how many transactions Uber processed since starting service in February and whether Uber would give refunds to riders should its application be rejected.

When the hearing resumed, Uber attorney Karen Moury argued that such information is a trade secret and irrelevant to the application, and she invoked her client's Fifth Amendment rights.

Justine Pate, an attorney representing taxi companies in the Harrisburg area, asked the PUC judges to dismiss Uber's application after Gore's testimony. Later, Pate asked the judges to hold Gore in contempt for refusing to answer questions.

PUC Administrative Law Judge Mary Long denied the latter request. PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said the agency's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement could investigate Gore's refusal to answer questions, noting commissioners asked similar questions in a July 24 order but have not received answers.

Taxi cab driver Khalid Alvi and taxi cab manager and owner Alex Friedman, both of Philadelphia, detailed state regulations that Uber doesn't follow that they must — such as Uber suddenly raising prices based on demand. Cabs follow fixed rate schedules approved by the PUC.

“They are killing my business,” said Alvi, an All City Taxi driver who heads the Philadelphia Cab Association.

He blamed Uber for a plummeting number of calls for service. All City received about 18,000 calls last month, down from an average of 28,000, he said.

A hearing related to insurance issues is scheduled for Sept. 9. The judges gave the attorneys until Sept. 12 to submit a series of briefs, including ones on the motions to dismiss the case and hold Gore in contempt.

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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