Taxi services urge Peduto to crack down on ride-sharing service Lyft


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Days after the launch of the ride-sharing service Lyft in Pittsburgh, the heads of Pittsburgh's two largest taxi operators wrote a letter to Mayor Bill Peduto urging him to to pass an ordinance cracking down on what they believe is an illegal taxi operation.

The letter, released today, was penned by Robert C. DeLucia Sr. and James Campolongo, who head of Star Transportation Group and Pittsburgh Transportation Group respectively, and asked the mayor to draft an ordinance empowering police officers to cite drivers.

"The proposed Ordinance is to arm City of Pittsburgh Police Officers ... with Citation Authority over vehicles operating like taxicabs or limousines, but not certified by the PUC," they wrote.

The San Francisco-based company allows drivers to use their own vehicles that are cheekily branded with a pink mustache affixed to the vehicle's grill. Customers summon rides through a smartphone app and pay through a donation-based fee system.

Last week, Lyft said they had no plans to apply for a commercial broker license through the Pennsylvania Utility Commission, which regulates taxi services. And the PUC made it clear that if they operated without one, they would be in violation of the law.

Lyft said it didn't "fit the criteria" of a commercial taxi service. The comapny could not be reached today for immediate comment.

Local taxi operators, however, are siding with the PUC. The pair said Lyft and companies like it "pose a significant transportation danger to every resident/visitor and will reduce City tax revenue."

The two companies pointed out that they pay about $1.5 million in payroll and earned income tax revenue to the city.

Sonya Toler, spokesman for Mr. Peduto, said the mayor has not had an opportunity to review the letter because he's been on vacation.

As its pink-mustached competitor faces a possible challenge from the city, another San Francisco-based ride share company, Uber, announced via its blog late Tuesday it was launching in Pittsburgh as well.

"The City of Champions is tallying up another win as Uber hits the streets of Pittsburgh to change the way yinz’ get around," according to the blog. "Uber, the mobile app connecting riders to drivers on-demand in over 70 cities worldwide, is now making its mark in The Steel City."

While Lyft is new to Pennsylvania, Uber has been operating its Uber Black service, which subcontracts with commercial limousine drivers, in Philadelphia since 2012.

Uber has been hiring drivers for its Uber X service in Pittsburgh, which operates similar to Lyft: drivers use their own vehicles to transport passengers, who sign up for the service and find drivers via a smartphone app.


Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. Kim Lyons: klyons@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1241. Twitter: @SocialKimLy.

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