Uber angst triggers protest by Philly taxi drivers

A cab driver places a sign protesting UberX

A cab driver places a sign protesting UberX

If you took your lunch hour in LOVE Park today, you would have seen lots of taxis but would have had trouble catching a ride.

Cab drivers parked their vehicles and then encircled Philadelphia City Hall in a horn-honking protest to demonstrate they don’t want competition from ride-sharing services.

Dozens of taxis were parked in rows three deep on JFK Boulevard as the drivers held up signs protesting the Uber-X ride-sharing service. The service uses a mobile phone app for pickups instead of phone calls or hailing a cab from the curb. Through the app, the company connects people looking for a ride with private car owners looking for extra money.

Philadelphia Parking Authority regulations have kept Uber from operating the ride-sharing services in the city.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Ronald Blunt, president of the Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania, said cab drivers and owners are united against legalizing Uber-X.

“We’re trying to protect the drivers’ earnings and we’re trying to keep the consumer’s safe,” Blunt said. “Not just in Philadelphia today, also in San Francisco today and also in London and Manila Philippines.”

Azziz Ali, who drives a Freedom Taxi, said cab drivers don’t need or want the competition.

“The message is to who would ride in a cab is to support us. We’ve been here for years, we’re going to stay here, we’re working with you, we are upgrading the cabs to make sure the vehicles are safe,” Ali said. “They are constantly regulated, they are constantly upgraded. We want everybody to be safe riding around the city of Philadelphia.”

Uber, which is now running a limo service in Philadelphia, has made a deal with paratransit drivers to serve people with disabilities through the app when those vehicles have downtime.

In response to the protest, which began at 10 a.m. and was expected to last into the evening, Uber issued a written statement.

“Rich taxi medallion owners should spend their time improving customer service, serving underserved communities and investing in new, safe and reliable vehicles, rather than trying to limit competition and choice for consumers,” said the statement.

Uber says it does conduct background checks of its independent drivers and welcomes taxi drivers to join instead of renting a cab with a medallion rental. The cost of that can run several hundred dollars a week.

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