Kenney introduces bill calling for hearings on legalizing ride-sharing apps in Philly

As the debate in Harrisburg proceeds as to whether Pennsylvania should legalize smartphone-based “transportation network company” platforms like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar, and whether Philadelphia should be the only county in the state carved out of the deal, Councilman Jim Kenney wants Philadelphia City Council to hold hearings on the various options under consideration.  

Kenney introduced a resolution Thursday authorizing City Council’s Transportation and Public Utilities Committee to explore the state bills under consideration, which references Pittsburgh’s recent success in persuading state Public Utility Commission regulators to approve an emergency application for TNCs to operate in the city, and notes Mayor Bill Peduto’s status as a “known and enthusiastic TNC rider.”

Democratic Gubernatorial nominee Tom Wolf supports state Senator Wayne Fontana’s (D-Pittsburgh) version of the legislation, and opposes a competing bill being pushed by the Philadelphia Parking Authority and Philadelphia taxi fleet owners that would exempt Philadelphia’s taxi owners from competing with the TNCs.

Fontana’s bill would regulate the e-hailing platforms as transportation network companies, rather than under common carrier rules for taxis, exempting them from Philadelphia’s taxi medallion system. Philadelphia is the only county in the state that puts a hard cap on the number of cars for hire – a practice that proponents argue is necessary to attract sufficient investment in the taxi business, and that opponents pan as an anti-competitive policy that cheats underserved areas and extracts high rents from taxi drivers.

So far there has been no significant bloc of opposition from within Philadelphia’s caucus of state lawmakers, and none have spoken out publicly against Senator Fontana’s bill. Members of City Council and the Nutter administration have yet to weigh in publicly.

While the proposal appears to be relatively uncontroversial among state Democrats though, there is a live debate among ideological activists within the Democratic Party over whether so-called “sharing economy” businesses are sympatico with the party’s values. AirBnB has so far failed to win legal approval to operate in Philly, for example, which could be an indication of the Council majority’s views on the subject.

You can download Councilman Kenney’s resolution here:

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