Bailey: Let Uber operate inside the Papal Weekend ‘traffic box’

 Philadelphia mayoral candidates support Uber-X, but disagree about whether they should be permitted to operate on Papal Visit weekend. (NewsWorks, file art)

Philadelphia mayoral candidates support Uber-X, but disagree about whether they should be permitted to operate on Papal Visit weekend. (NewsWorks, file art)

Should Uber-X get a free pass to drive throughout the city during Pope Francis’ visit next month? Republican mayoral candidate Melissa Murray Bailey thinks so.

On Friday, a statement issued from her campaign called on the Philadelphia Parking Authority “to Lyft restrictions on Uber in time for the Papal Visit,” with the Lyft being a ride-sharing pun on the word lift, of course.

She cited the demands of traffic restrictions on working Philadelphians and the chance for Philly “to position itself as a true world class city” as the impetuses for the call.

“Part of being a world-class city is being able to get people in, out and around, yet we have halted bus and rail access to the city and we had a lottery to see who is going to be able to get around,” Bailey’s statement reads. “What we are forgetting is that people’s lives don’t stop when the Pope gets here.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“We have a responsibility to Philadelphians who still need to get around and get to work. That is why I call on the Philadelphia Parking Authority to lift the restrictions they have placed on ridesharing services such as Uber X in time for the Papal visit.”

She also noted that Uber ignited a “sharing economy which has provided innovative ways to do age old tasks faster, better and cheaper” and provided jobs for many Philadelphians.

“We cannot allow the [Papal visit and Democratic National Convention] to be sabotaged by bureaucracy and the fear of change,” said Bailey.

Senior policy advisor Tom Kurek later told NinetyNine that if cabs are permitted to operate inside the traffic box, a decision that Mayor Michael Nutter’s office said hasn’t been made yet, “these ride sharing vehicles should be allowed as well.”

“This would give people inside the zone an opportunity to be able to move around in a vehicle easily,” Kurek said in a statement that runs counter to Nutter’s be-prepared-to-walk warnings. “Also, people coming from various locations outside the traffic zone would at least be able to get a quick affordable ride to the edge of the zone via one of these ride-sharing companies services.”

Boundaries for the Center City traffic box, from which drivers will be able to exit but not re-enter, are:

The northern boundary: Spring Garden to Ridge, Ridge to Girard, Girard to the Schuylkill River. Southern boundary: South Street, river to river.

The eastern boundary: Delaware Avenue from South Street to Spring Garden.

The western boundary runs along the edge of the Schuylkill River, cuts up Kelly Drive, stopping just below the Girard Avenue Bridge.

The Schuylkill Expressway from the Blue Route to the Walt Whitman Bridge, the Vine Street Expressway and the Ben Franklin Bridge all will be closed for the papal weekend.

For his part, Democratic mayoral candidate Jim Kenney “fully appreciates the economic importance of a sharing economy,” according to campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt, who pointed to the pro-Uber resolution he championed as a councilman as evidence.

What about giving Uber exemptions for Papal-weekend roadway use?

“No, he doesn’t agree,” Hitt said. “While Jim is empathetic to Philadelphians’ objections to the traffic box, in 2015, our city has to take security risks very, very seriously.”

A response from the PPA, which considers Uber and Lyft unregulated taxis, was not immediately available Friday morning. If/when they respond, this post will be updated.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal