UberX in Pa. doesn’t change enforcement of Philly’s ban on ‘ride sharing’

 UberX rolled out promotions in Philadelphia earlier this year. (Electronic image via Uber.com)

UberX rolled out promotions in Philadelphia earlier this year. (Electronic image via Uber.com)

The ride-sharing service UberX just escaped legal limbo in Pennsylvania – except in Philadelphia.

The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission has granted UberX an experimental – and conditional — license to operate for two years. UberX and drivers will have to comply with regulations around vehicle inspection, background checks, insurance and enforce a zero tolerance for drug and alcohol use on the job, among other safety measures within the next 30 days.

Just don’t try to line up a ride with UberX’s roving private drivers inside Philadelphia. Commissioner Pamela Witmer said the PUC action does not affect the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s ban on UberX inside city limits.

“Our action does not impact at all what PPA is doing currently.” But, she said, that could change if the legislature decides to change statutes in the future. “When people are talking about pressure [on the PPA], they’re talking about legislative change.”

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The PPA, which regulates taxis in the city, said it wants to keep UberX out of the city because it doesn’t follow the same rules on insurance and safety that Uber’s other, legal limousine-style service does. With that black-car stream of Uber, “customers get a safe ride, they’ll know they’re not being driven by a criminal, and they’ll know the vehicle’s in good shape,” said Vince Fennerty, PPA executive director.

The PPA’s regulations and training are more stringent than what the PUC had been requiring, he said. The limousine-style service has 480 drivers operating legally within Philadelphia.

Witmer said this dispute underlines the need for the state legislature to pass a law governing ride-sharing services. Uber representative Tony Bennett responded by email that the company will work with the legislature and PUC “to get the details right.”

In the meantime, the PPA fines UberX and its drivers $1,000 each — and impounds their cars — each time an UberX driver is caught operating in the city.

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