Local, state officials urge PUC to give temporary permits to Uber, Lyft
Local political leaders and state legislators on Thursday asked the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to grant temporary permits allowing ride-share companies Uber and Lyft to operate in the Pittsburgh area until lawmakers adopt permanent regulations.
“There is a demand for these types of services. ... I urge the PUC to expedite their consideration,” Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, said at a rally at the City-County Building, Downtown, as dozens of Uber and Lyft supporters cheered.
Fontana introduced a bill this week to classify the companies as transportation network companies and subject them to regulations, including provisions requiring them to establish driver-training programs, conduct background checks on drivers, maintain commercial liability insurance of at least $1 million per incident and annually inspect vehicles.
Rep. Erin Molchany, D-Mt. Washington, proposed a similar measure in the House.
Lawmakers can't act on the proposed regulatory changes until they return from summer recess in mid-September.
“The PUC has maintained since March that a legislative solution for transportation network companies is the best answer for Pennsylvania,” spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said. “But we have an obligation to apply the law as it currently exists.”
Kocher said only Uber applied for emergency authority to operate, through its subsidiary Raiser PA. She said commissioners could approve the request before their July 24 meeting through an informal survey of members but said the PUC is awaiting further information from Uber before proceeding.
“We're not anti-regulation,” said David Barmore, a Washington-based public policy specialist at Uber Technologies.
Ride-share companies, which connect passengers and drivers through Internet applications, have endured resistance from legislators, regulators and established taxi and limo companies in many cities where they introduced service. The companies argue they aren't traditional transportation companies because they don't maintain vehicle fleets or count drivers as employees.
The PUC cited 22 drivers in Pittsburgh, including 11 apiece from Uber and Lyft, for driving without its permission and issued proposed fines against the San Francisco-based companies of $130,000 and $95,000, respectively.
The companies ignored cease-and-desist orders from the PUC, which regulates taxi and limo companies.
“Other progressive cities moving forward are doing this. We need to do this, too,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said, likening the controversy to blowback from some local officials in the 1980s over allowing people to fill their own gas tanks, because of a perceived health hazard. “It's protectionism. It protects things from moving forward.”
Chuck Half, a manager at Pittsburgh's VETaxi, said the PUC assesses parent company Star Transportation Group about $50,000 a year to operate. It also pays other fees and taxes.
“Lack of a level playing field is the government picking winners and losers by rewarding some and penalizing others,” Half said.
Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Plum High School teacher hires attorney who also represents Jerry Sandusky
- Former Franklin Park woman convicted of abusing adopted children to be freed from jail
- McKees Rocks council president arrested after SWAT standoff
- Penn Hills School District brings on former employee as consultant
- VA hospitals in Pittsburgh, Erie turn attention to female veterans’ needs
- Plum school officials ignoring help, advocacy group’s chief says
- Water main break disrupts Downtown traffic
- Western Pennsylvania watchmaking company says worker safe in earthquake
- Mt. Lebanon appoints former commissioner to fill opening
- Portion of inbound lanes on Boulevard of the Allies will be closed Tuesday night
- Man arrested in 2014 shooting death of Larimer man