Pittsburgh along for ride with Lyft, Uber, but PUC not
The state Public Utility Commission is ready to take a razor to giant pink mustachioed cars that are offering rides in Pittsburgh.
The PUC said Wednesday the agency looking into complaints against Lyft, a driving service booked through a smartphone app, and other unlicensed transportation services and is “preparing to take action” to curb the practice.
PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said the agency has been made aware of Lyft's operations in Pittsburgh, which began on Friday. She couldn't say where the complaints originated.
“Generally speaking, we could file an internal PUC complaint or we can file criminally. Many times, we do both,” Kocher said. “The companies and drivers alike could be cited because (the drivers) are providing the actual service.”
“We'll be heading in that direction.”
Lyft's entrance to the Pittsburgh market reached the City-Council Building this week when competitors, including Yellow Cab, asked the city to pass an ordinance authorizing police to cite unlicensed transportation services.
Jamie Campolongo, CEO of Pittsburgh Transportation Group, which owns Yellow Cab, was one of the people requesting the ordinance. Campolongo said last week Lyft's operation is illegal and establishes an uneven business environment, because his company has to adhere to PUC rules and licensing. He could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Mayor Bill Peduto's chief of staff, Kevin Acklin, said the mayor supports the new company and that it will provide needed competition to what he called “duopoly” among taxi services in the city.
“This is something we want to see. Other cities have adopted this,” Acklin said. “Whatever licensing happens is a judgement the Public Utility Commission has to make. We're not going to make that judgement.”
Acklin said Peduto does not support having police ticket Lyft or other app-based driving services. He said the city would get involved only if the company did not pay the proper business taxes. Uber, a similar transportation service, lists Pittsburgh as one its operating cities.
“We're not going to just come out of the box and say ‘no,' ” Acklin said.
Lyft users book a ride from an app and pay a suggested donation by credit card through a smartphone. Drivers, who typically greet passengers with a fist bump, use their personal cars with a pink mustache hooked on the front as identification for the car service. The tech-savvy company is based in San Francisco and offers services in 20 other cities.
“Despite being Lyft's newest market, we have already seen a very positive response from Pittsburgh community members, who see Lyft as an additional transportation option that is safe, affordable and reliable,” said Lyft spokeswoman Paige Thelen. “By supporting innovation and technology, Mayor Peduto and the city of Pittsburgh are paving the way for providing sustainable transportation options that make our cities safer and better connected.”
Fights over state and municipal regulations are nothing new to Lyft. There have been clashes with traditional cab companies in Atlanta, Dallas and Seattle as government leaders grapple with how the company should be regulated.
Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or email@example.com.
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.
- The Exchange offers reward for information that leads to the arrest of person who shot Ross clerk
- Second African penguin chick hatches at National Aviary
- Fall from Hazelwood roof kills man
- Pittsburgh fraud case, Uganda-based counterfeiting racket linked
- Ex-Steeler Blount given 50 hours of community service in pot charge deal
- Pittsburgh Public Schools adopts no-tax-increase budget for 2015
- Icy roads, cold causing school delays, wrecks in Western Pa.