Pa. lawmakers dive into ride-sharing debate about regulations for Uber, Lyft
Ride-sharing companies that rolled into Pennsylvania last year are forcing state lawmakers to reconcile existing regulations with the growing prominence of Uber and Lyft.
A hearing Thursday of the House Consumer Affairs Committee weighed permanent ride-sharing regulations overseen by the Pennsylvania Utilities Commission and highlighted the tension between traditional taxis and the smartphone-based car service companies.
The PUC granted Uber and Lyft, so-called “transportation network companies,” temporary operating permits last year for all areas of the state except Philadelphia.
Danielle Friedman, attorney for the Pennsylvania Taxi Association, said ride-sharing services should have the same standards as taxi services.
“The only real difference is that taxis provide their service legally while TNCs openly violate the law,” she said.
Uber is operating illegally in Philadelphia, said Philadelphia Parking Authority executive director Vince Fenerty, which regulates taxi and limousine services there. Two cars were impounded Wednesday.
No vote is scheduled on House Bill 1065, the legislation that would establish regulations for TNCs and Philadelphia. But PUC chair Gladys Brown warned the committee they are on a deadline, as the first temporary permit expires next summer.
Nick Zabriskie, public policy associate for Uber’s East Coast operations, said while the company supports the concept, the regulations proposed for Philadelphia would kill the business that has provided more than 1 million trips since October 2014. Regulations, he said, should be for the company, not drivers.
“A lot of our drivers do this on a part-time basis,” he said. “As soon as you start treating people like full-time chauffeurs, the amount of people willing to come do these services drops off rapidly.”
Uber claims it employs more than 20,000 drivers working in 11 Pennsylvania cities who will take home more than $100 million in net earnings this year.
Twenty states and Washington have regulations in place for transportation network companies.
Katie Kincaid, government relationships manager for Lyft, urged flexibility in any final proposal.
Recently in San Francisco, it launched a carpool-styled service called Lyft Line for users headed in the same direction.
“It’s important to take into consideration that this is an evolving marketplace and an evolving industry,” Kincaid said. “As you make decisions about the industry, we ask that you look at not just the industry of today but the industry of tomorrow.”
Pittsburgh Transportation Group president Jamie Campolongo said in his testimony it is unfair for the state to allow Uber and Lyft to operate without updating regulations for traditional services. He said the industry remains hamstrung by an outdated process with lengthy approval processes for any rate or regulatory changes.
“The taxi industry would like to receive the same consideration,” he said.
Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8511 or [email protected].