Pennsylvania PUC officer finds Lyft, Uber drivers easy to pursue in Pittsburgh
The same smartphone technology making it easy to summon ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber made it simple for an undercover officer to catch their drivers and issue them citations for operating without licenses.
A compliance officer for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission issued 23 tickets to Lyft and Uber drivers for operating without state approval during the past month. The sting didn't require much detective work.
“When you request a ride, you get the name of the driver and the license plate number,” said PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher. “They use that information in writing the summons.”
Posing as a customer, the PUC officer used his smartphone to get a ride and paid with a credit card. The officer didn't tell the driver that he was under cover, opting to mail the citation later, Kocher said.
The officer filed the citations — classified as summary offenses — at District Judge Gene Ricciardi's office on the South Side. Fines can range from $25 to $300, with additional court costs at the discretion of a judge.
The officer cited the drivers between March 31 and April 21 by taking a variety of rides, including pickups at Wyndham Grand Hotel in Downtown; Rivers Casino on the North Shore; and Station Square and other parts of the South Side.
Lyft and Uber supply rides, with drivers using their own cars based on real-time requests sent from an app on a customer's smartphone. Lyft drivers attach a pink moustache to their grill for identification. The PUC regulates taxi services. Traditional cab companies complained that Lyft and Uber don't have state licenses to operate.
Some drivers were surprised to learn of the citations because they haven't arrived yet in the mail.
Lyft driver Bunny Van Meter, 33, of Overbrook said the citation isn't fair.
“People should know what the PUC is doing because it's shady,” Van Meter said. “There's a monopoly on transportation, and we're filling in the gaps.”
Van Meter was cited for picking up the undercover officer on April 16 at Rivers Casino and dropping him off at the Wyndham Grand. The officer took six other rides on the same day, records show.
The citations are the first in the state against drivers for those companies, Kocher said. Lyft and Uber have license applications pending with the PUC.
A Lyft spokeswoman said the company would cover the cost of the fines.
Uber spokeswoman Natalia Montalvo didn't respond to questions but said in a statement that the company has seen overwhelming demand from riders and drivers.
“Both Mayor (Bill) Peduto and PUC Chairman (Robert) Powelson have expressed support for innovative transportation solutions that deliver more choices for consumers and more opportunities for drivers,” the statement said, in part.
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.
- Man shot while driving through Liberty Tunnel
- Pa. gaming industry’s growth amplifies siren call for addicts
- Lowly job likely awaits former Pittsburgh police chief after prison
- Little Free Libraries catching on in Pittsburgh region
- Woman operating scooter struck by freight train dies in Coraopolis
- Newsmaker: John F. Alcorn
- Feds want to seize cash, property from suspects in drug bust
- Analyst says Pa. senate race leans toward Toomey — because Democrats ‘loathe’ Sestak
- Motorist arrested for killing Colorado police cadet, injuring training officer
- Mixed-income apartments in flourishing East Liberty applauded
- Grand jury investigating Plum sex scandal involving possibly 8 students