A three-judge panel ruled unanimously in favor of Uber in an antitrust appeal filed by dozens of Philadelphia cab companies, the Philadelphia Business Journal ’s Alison Burdo reports. The court said the plaintiffs, 80 taxi companies and a trade association, “failed to show Uber’s aggressive expansion in the city included an intent to monopolize the market” and according to Circuit Judge Marjorie Rendell, in fact “bolstered competition by offering customers lower prices, more available taxicabs, and a high-tech alternative to the customary method of hailing taxicabs and paying for rides.” The courts have frequently sided with the ride-hailing giant, Burdo reports, “often referencing the company’s own definition as a tech firm – not a taxi company – as reason it should not be lumped with taxis by regulators.”
A federal judge sided with the PPA in February over a lawsuit filed by more than 130 medallion taxicab companies for $558 million in collective damages. Jim Saksa reported that the plaintiffs alleged that the PPA’s lack of regulatory enforcement against the “illegal entrants into the transportation market” violated the drivers’ constitutional rights to equal protection and constituted a regulatory taking of the value of their taxi medallions.
Dispatches from City Hall’s budget hearings
Over at City Hall, council members want the Kenney administration to justify its new budget request when it hasn’t yet spent the funds it borrowed for this fiscal year, WHYY News’ Tom McDonald reports. At Tuesday’s hearing on the budget plan, the council asked officials how they plan to spend down current borrowing and ensure essential developments like a new Philadelphia Police headquarters, and projects stalled by the extended court challenge to the city’s sweetened beverage tax stay on track. Budget director Anna Adams acknowledged that the city didn’t have the best track record at spending money in the past, but are trying to do better. “We try to just allocate money for the projects that we know the departments have the capacity to use — and also to just finish off a project if they are waiting for appropriations to finish off a project,” Adams explained at the hearing.
As for the city’s tab for the new police headquarters after sinking $50 million to renovate 4601 Market Street, Director of Planning and Development Anne Fadullon said the city continues to receive proposals for the West Philadelphia property, ranging from office, health, education, and residential uses. “I do think we will get more for the property than what we purchased the property for,” Fadullon said, “but we will probably not get anywhere close to the $50 million.”
The Kenney administration is now working to develop the former Inquirer headquarters at 400 North Broad St. into the new police HQ. That deal may prove costlier than initially projected, Jake Blumgart reported in February.
Philly is not Vancouver.
Meanwhile, in Kensington, Philadelphia officials fielded questions from residents at the first citywide town hall to discuss providing a space where users can inject drugs under medical supervision, WHYY News’ Joel Wolfram reports. While officials say they haven’t selected a site yet, “the message that Kensington was the prime candidate for a safe injection site drew a mixed reaction and plenty of criticism from residents,” Wolfram reports. Residents voiced concerns over attracting more drug users and questioned an apparent racial disparity comparing this proposal to how the city handled crack epidemic that affected many African-Americans several decades ago. Others “voiced their support for the sites, emphasizing the urgency of saving lives.” Officials pointed to results from the first North American safe injection site in Vancouver, Canada as precedence, to which one resident, Cecilia Ortiz, retorted “This is not Vancouver! Vancouver doesn’t have the same socio-economic issues, the same environment that we have here!”
City officials said they would return to the community again before making any final decisions about site selection.