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The PUC, Lyft & Uber: The real 'threat'

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The hole in the head of the Pennsylvania regulatory state is larger than we ever could have imagined. Witness its nonsensical ruling ordering two ride-sharing services to immediately shut down in Pittsburgh.

Lyft and Uber are innovative startups that use a smartphone application — and private drivers and vehicles — to exploit the manifest deficiencies of the local taxi monopoly. Because they accept “donations” instead of “charging fares,” Lyft and Uber thought they could bypass the state Public Utility Commission's monopoly-protecting ways.

That, of course, has the PUC's knickers in a knot. And in the Bureaucratic States of America, thumbing one's nose at regulators bent on restraining free trade is a capital offense. So, the PUC was forced to create, out of whole cloth, a public safety “threat.”

An undercover PUC gendarme has been targeting the ride-sharing services for months, issuing hefty fines. When Lyft and Uber continued operating, the PUC sought — and on Tuesday received from a pair of administrative law judges — a cease-and-desist order until the services obtain licenses, already applied for.

The judges ruled that Lyft and Uber pose an immediate threat to public safety, never mind that there's no evidence supporting that conclusion. Thus, the only “threat” here is to the state of overregulation and, of course, to regulators who, in their zealotry to “protect” the public (if not their power), only are disserving it.

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