Taxi and limo drivers threaten Kenney: Stop UberX and Lyft by Wednesday or else…

A coalition of taxi, limo, Uber and Lyft drivers, plus disability rights advocates, handed out flyers during Mayor Jim Kenney’s inaugural budget address, warning that if the Mayor did not take “swift action” by Wednesday, March 11th, they would be forced to take “extraordinary measures.”

What are those extraordinary measures? The coalition won’t say.

The Let Philly Ride coalition blames Kenney and the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) for failing to take forceful action against the UberX and Lyft, the Transportation Network Companies (TNC) operating illegally in Philadelphia.

In a statement, Mayor Kenney said the matter was out of his hands, and called on the General Assembly to pass laws regulating TNCs.

“Consensus must be reached among the [TNCs], PPA and the taxi companies so we can have a fair and regulated industry in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, enforcement of this falls solely on the PPA and they are outside of the city’s purview.”

The statement added that Kenney was “working with Uber to address the issues raised by the disability community.”

According to the coalition’s flyer and statements released to the press, the coalition has three chief complaints: TNCs violate the Americans with Disabilities Act by charging disabled passengers more; the TNCs are operating illegally in Philadelphia by refusing to comply with taxi regulations, and; the TNCs refuse to guarantee minimum wages or the right to unionize.

As PlanPhilly reported last week, Uber denies that it charges more for its UberWAV service, which allows users to hail wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) via a mobile app, than its similar UberBlack limousine service. A comparison of trip prices using Uber’s fare estimate suggests that UberBlack trips in Philadelphia are slightly more expensive than UberWAV trips.*

PlanPhilly also recently reported that the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas held that UberX was operating as an illegal taxi service. Uber representatives say the company intends to appeal.

In a lawsuit filed in January, UberBlack drivers sued Uber under the Fair Labor Standards Act, alleging that the company illegally classifies them as independent contractors instead of employees. Last year, a California labor board ruled that Uber drivers were employees, leading to a large class-action lawsuit to broaden the labor board ruling to the company’s statewide operations. As employees, drivers would be legally entitled to healthcare benefits, overtime, cost reimbursements and additional legal protections.

The coalition met with Deputy Managing Director Brian Abernathy last month after delivering an anti-TNC petition with 367 signatures and holding a protest outside City Hall. According to the coalition, Abernathy told them that the PPA, not the Mayor, is charged with enforcing taxi laws.  

Last week, the coalition sent a letter to the PPA, demanding that the authority join the class action lawsuit against Uber. The PPA declined, noting that they had already launched their own lawsuit against Uber seeking to enjoin their operations in Philadelphia.

*CORRECTION: This sentence originally had “less” where it should have said “more”. 

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