|By Paul Nussbaum, The Philadelphia Inquirer|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Following a foray into
In their push to recruit drivers and passengers around the country and abroad, the ride-share operators have sparked an intense debate about competition, driver pay, and safeguards for passengers, including questions about criminal background checks, insurance policies, and driver qualifications.
But the fight to bring ride-sharing to the state, and to
Ride-share drivers continue to operate in
The regulatory battle has shifted to
If approved as drafted, such a ride-share law would apply to
At the same time, Uber and Lyft are now seeking "experimental" licenses from the PUC to operate statewide. A pre-hearing conference on those applications is scheduled for Thursday.
If the experimental applications are approved, the ride-share services would be able to operate everywhere in the state except
"It would not apply to
Wheels down in Philly
The ride-share companies have their eyes on
"We look forward to continuing to work with city and state officials to develop a sensible regulatory framework that allows Philadelphians access to the safest, most reliable and affordable ride on the road," said Uber spokesman
Uber was founded in 2009 as
Lyft representatives also have met with Parking Authority officials, seeking to bring their ride-share service, with cars sporting distinctive pink mustaches, to the city. For the time being, Lyft spokeswoman
Meanwhile, the threat of low-cost competition from private operators in their own cars, who can be summoned by a touch on a smartphone, has galvanized a
And an "e-pay" phone app (Way2ride) now allows passengers to pay their cab fares with a tap of their smartphone on a screen in the cab. The new app was approved last month by the Parking Authority, which regulates taxis in the city.
Next month, the same app is supposed to allow riders to "e-hail" 90 percent of
Those kind of innovations are standard in the ride-share business, but they are futuristic developments in
"I really want to make these apps available. . . . They will show that we can be as efficient and convenient as those ride-share cars claim to be," said
Also on the way: Security cameras inside all
"Our industry is in incredible turmoil," said
The battle pits well-financed, tech-savvy new companies that are part of the emerging "peer-to-peer" economy against entrenched monopolies with reputations for poor service, too few vehicles, and antiquated equipment.
A lot of money is at stake.
Last month, five-year-old Uber was valued at
Lyft, newer and smaller than Uber, told TechCrunch, which covers new technologies, last December its revenue was growing about 6 percent every week.
On the other side of the street, traditional taxis can be a gold mine for their owners. A
There are 1,600 medallion cabs in
The new medallions are expected to sell for
The drivers of the cabs -- or the private cars of ride-share networks -- don't see much of the big money.
The average annual income for a
"I have to gross
What's the difference?
"These ride-share companies are in a race to accumulate market share," says
Price said he is unpersuaded by arguments by Uber and Lyft that they are substantially different from taxi operators.
Administrative law judges
"Although the digital platform used to connect passengers with transportation is new and innovative, the proscription against using private vehicles for transportation without commission authority is hardly new," the judges said.
Price said: "The pattern is pretty clear: They defy the existing law and enter a market, knowing they can absorb the fines. While they're doing that, they find a lobbyist and move very hard to change the regulatory climate.
"It looks to me like they're having a fair amount of success."
"They didn't fit current PUC regulations," Fontana said. "The public wants the service, but they want some kind of oversight on the background of drivers, insurance coverage, and vehicle requirements."
The bill would require the companies to conduct criminal background checks of all drivers, provide
The bill would exempt ride-share companies from any regulation of fares, any municipal licenses or taxes, and the requirement to have a certificate of public convenience.
"We researched other states, especially
He said all five PUC commissioners had endorsed his bill.
Cab companies from
"Nothing in the application distinguishes the proposed service, in any meaningful way, from the other motor carriers' services,"
"They are predators and illegal operators," said Friedman, the 60-year-old Ukrainian émigré who runs All City and Checker Cab dispatching companies from his office above a transmission-repair shop in
"They're taking money and giving rides. If you give rides and accept payment, you're a common carrier."
He acknowledged that
"Maybe there is a way to accommodate the public with additional supply," he said, suggesting that ride-sharing services could be permitted during peak periods, if they meet safety and licensing rules.
"Nobody is saying we're perfect, but we are changing," Friedman said. "We are delivering phone apps, criminal checks, friendliness, cleanliness."
"We're open to competition to satisfy the public, but it should be fair competition."
BY THE NUMBERS
399 Uber Black vehicles in
1,599 Number of taxis in
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