Editor’s note: When ride-share companies moved in to Pittsburgh, taxi companies protested and the PUC cracked down. The story is evolving, and we’ll update this page with news. You can explore the story here, beginning with the newest developments first.
Pittsburgh's mayor gets a Lyft
Mayor Bill Peduto took a spin in Brad Hoffman's Lyft car to share what he thinks of new innovation in Pittsburgh. (Video by Madasyn Czebiniak; 8/1/2014)
Yellow Cab Co. of Pittsburgh can’t impose a variable surcharge for weekends and holidays of up to $8 per trip, because it would be unclear to passengers how much they had to pay, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission ruled in a unanimous vote Thursday.
But Yellow Cab president Jamie Campolongo questioned how such a fee would be different from the surge pricing model used by taxi challenger Uber.
San Francisco-based ride sharing company Lyft will pay a total $250,000 as part of a settlement agreement with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, to resolve a complaint from last summer that it was operating illegally in the Pittsburgh area.
Although Uber and Lyft tend to hold information about their companies’ inner workings close to the vest, a workforce snapshot that Uber released in January shows over-50 drivers are the largest demographic in two of the company’s four driver segments
The guidelines could affect ride-sharing services like Uber to seasonal businesses such as construction companies to creative entities like publishers.
A new survey of ride-share drivers in 20 cities where Uber and Lyft operate finds that Pittsburgh drivers are roughly in the middle of the pack when it comes to how much they earn per trip.
The two big ride-sharing companies operating in Pittsburgh have taken different approaches to boosting ridership as warmer weather has meant fewer riders. In June, Lyft temporarily raised its prices by about 15 percent, and on Tuesday, Uber announced it would cut its fares by 15 percent.
Both companies are aiming for the same result.
As part of the agreement worked out last month between San Francisco-based Uber and the Allegheny County Airport Authority, ride-sharing drivers who want to pick up passengers at the airport are required to wait in the cell phone lot at the extended parking area. But even though a trip from the airport to Downtown can net a fare of $35 or $40, some drivers say the new system forces them to wait too long.
When San Francisco ride-sharing company Uber announced in February it would partner with the National Robotics Engineering Center with the goal of producing self-driving cars and would locate its Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, the move seemed to reverse the usual narrative for the Steel City: Instead of talented people moving out for job opportunities, a large company was moving in and bringing jobs here.
CMU has hired more than 20 new faculty in the last year, Uber’s John Bares said, because there is a huge demand for people with robotics knowledge.
Allegheny County Airport Authority officials Tuesday announced a policy that allows ride-sharing companies to operate on the airport’s property for at least the next three years.
June 1: CMU downplays personnel departures to Uber
Carnegie Mellon University on Monday dismissed concerns about the stability of its National Robotics Engineering Center, following published reports suggesting that San Francisco ride-sharing company Uber had lured away enough personnel to put the center in jeopardy.
At a hearing Downtown on Wednesday, an attorney for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s enforcement arm said Uber’s refusal to comply with repeated orders from judges showed it was unfit to operate in the Commonwealth.
After months of preparation and several rounds of tweaking, Yellow Cab thinks its solution to the Uber problem is ready to hit the road.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission this morning voted unanimously to approve compliance plans from ride-sharing company Lyft, which gives the San Francisco-based company an experimental two-year license to operate in most of the state.
“As I said last year, I am committed to making this growing transportation alternative safe, reliable, accountable and adequately regulated,” Mr. Fontana said. “I am confident this bill delivers on those assurances.”
A year later, some of that new-car smell has worn off, even as the state’s Public Utility Commission has come around to the idea that Lyft and Uber should stay in Pittsburgh.
Like the UberX version of its service, which already is operating in Pittsburgh, UberXL pairs drivers in their own vehicles with passengers via Uber’s smartphone app. But UberXL vehicles are bigger, six-person SUVs.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission this morning voted unanimously to approve a compliance plan from ride-sharing company Uber, which gives the San Francisco-based company an experimental two-year license to operate in most of the state.
A request by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission's bureau of investigation and enforcement to subpoena Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was denied by two administrative law judges.
Jan. 27: Lyft introduces the ’glowstache’
Lyft has pulled the pink furry mustache that drivers display on the front of their cars and replaced it with a 5-inch-long pink "glowstache" that goes on the dashboard.
The compliance plan is intended to demonstrate Lyft will adhere to conditions set forth when the PUC approved a two-year experimental license for the San Francisco ride-sharing company back in December.
The enforcement arm of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission proposed that the largest fine in its history be levied against San Francisco-based ride-sharing company Uber.
Despite the increased prices for passengers of Lyft and Uber, some ride-share drivers say they didn’t earn as much as they hoped on one of the industry’s busiest dates on the calendar.
Dec. 29: Uber files compliance plan with PUC
As it prepares for New Year’s Eve, one of the busiest dates on its calendar, Uber has filed a compliance plan with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission that takes the ride-sharing company a step closer to being on good terms with the PUC for at least the next two years.
A group of 45 Philadelphia taxi companies filed suit in federal court Tuesday alleging that Uber is waging unfair competition against medallion owners who must operate under state laws and regulations. Lead litigant Checker Cab Philadelphia and the other cab operators accused Uber of racketeering.
Last week, at its final meeting of 2014, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission board voted 4 to 1 to grant experimental authority for ride share company Lyft to operate in Allegheny County and statewide. The approval came with conditions and is similar to a license granted last month to rival company Uber.
The move was a somewhat unexpected conclusion to a saga that began in February, when Lyft rolled into the Pittsburgh area with much fanfare — but no permits or legal standing.
Dec. 19: Is Lyft too friendly to battle Uber?
Under the original vision, every Lyft ride would be a little different, with drivers encouraged to customize their cars for a unique rider experience. Many of these original quirks have been toned down in recent months, with the company doing away with the large pink mustaches and presenting the fist bumps and the passenger seating arrangements as optional choices.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission this morning granted ride-sharing company Lyft an experimental license to operate in Pittsburgh and statewide.
After drivers from the ride-sharing company Uber agreed Monday not to return to the Pittsburgh International Airport to pick up customers, a judge dismissed charges against them. Twenty-one Uber drivers were taken to court by the Allegheny County Airport Authority because they did not have the proper permits to solicit customers at the airport.
Even though San Francisco ride-sharing company Uber is operating in the Pittsburgh area under temporary authority from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, under airport rules only commercial vehicles with permits issued by the airport can pick up passengers there.
Uber does not release figures about the number of drivers in a given city, so there is no way to verify how many drivers it has in Pittsburgh, let alone how many are making it their full-time job. But some say they are starting to notice fees cutting into their take-home pay.
As first reported by BuzzFeed, Uber’s senior vice president of business suggested the company hire opposition researchers to conduct what amounted to smear campaigns against its critics in the media. Pittsburgh users of the ride sharing service weighed in.
The approval came with conditions that the commissioners warned had to be met within 30 days, including background checks for drivers and requirements for insurance coverage.
"While we have been working with the airport authorities to reach a solution, we recommend partners do not pick up riders at the airport until further notice," the company wrote in an email to Pittsburgh-area Uber drivers. "Also, you will notice that you will no longer be able to receive requests while at the airport. Partners should still be able to drop off riders at the airport without a problem."
Oct. 28: Uber battle heats up in Philadelphia
While Lyft and Uber remain in neutral in Pittsburgh, the ride-sharing drama at the other end of the state has kicked into high gear.
Ride sharing company Uber launched its uberX service in Philadelphia on Friday, amid uncertainty over the main insurer of taxis in the City of Brotherly Love.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had filed an emergency petition seeking to unseal the information, which was provided to two administrative law judges during hearings in Pittsburgh in August and September. Lyft sought to protect information about the number of trips it provided customers while under the cease-and-desist order as proprietary.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s enforcement arm on Thursday proposed a $6.9 million fine against Lyft on the same day that two PUC judges recommended the company not receive a permanent license to operate in the state.
And a state representative who proposed legislation that would have created a new category for ride-share companies in Pennsylvania said late Thursday it seemed “unlikely” the Legislature would act on the bill during the current session.
Mr. Peduto's spokesman, Tim McNulty, said the trip is "mostly about maintaining and building relationships with state leaders." However, he acknowledged that "some city-related issues" could come up as part of the visit.
Those include the Act 47 state oversight program for distressed municipalities that the mayor lobbied earlier this year to keep the city under and ride-sharing legislation that would provide a long-term framework for companies like Uber and Lyft, which the mayor has said fills a crucial transportation need in Pittsburgh.
Jonathan Greer of the Pennsylvania Insurance Federation says making sure Uber has proper insurance and properly educated and trained drivers is a fair and logical standard.
Two judges ruled Thursday that ride-sharing company Uber should not be given a permanent license to operate in parts of Pennsylvania because it hasn’t proved that it cares about protecting either its drivers or its passengers, and it has been unwilling to comply with PUC orders and unwilling to disclose its operations while it was ignoring a cease-and-desist order from the commission.
Sept. 25: OPINION: Ride herd on ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft
Governments should require ride-sharing operators to be transparent
As Pennsylvania lawmakers return to Harrisburg this week, a total of six proposals dealing with ride-sharing await their consideration. None seek to apply the brakes to the popular companies.
The public has spoken both by using ride shares and by advocating for the services. The PUC has endorsed the effort. Now it’s time for the Legislature to bring Pennsylvania’s transportation regulations into the 21st century by legalizing ride share.
Sept. 11: Lyft hearing examines insurance
A witness for the Pennsylvania Insurance Federation, a Pennsylvania trade group, tried to explain Wednesday why the insurance coverage that San Francisco ride-sharing company Lyft is proposing is problematic.
Sept. 10: Uber details insurance policy at hearing
An Uber spokesman testified at length Tuesday about the San Francisco company’s insurance policies at a hearing before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, detailing when drivers for the ride-sharing platform are covered.
After months of battling ride share companies Lyft and Uber, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s board has sent a letter to state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, urging action on legislation that would create a new category for the companies in the Keystone State.
Any new legislation governing ride-sharing companies in Pennsylvania would come before Gov. Tom Corbett, and on Friday he made it clear where he stands on the issue
A full panel meeting by the PUC’s five-member board this week will look further down the road, trying to figure out how to maneuver through the woefully outdated rules the state utility body is sworn to enforce.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission gave San Francisco ride-sharing company Uber the green light in Allegheny County, granting it a temporary license to operate.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said in a conference call Tuesday that he expects a “win” in Pittsburgh, even as his company’s local attorney was arguing the company should not have to disclose the number of local trips it provided in Pittsburgh over the past few months to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
During a hearing in Pittsburgh on Monday, the local attorney for Uber instructed a witness not to answer questions about the number of rides the company has provided while under a cease-and-desist order, despite a court order compelling the company to reveal the information.
Lyft has beaten Uber to the finish line in at least one race: It’s now the only ride share company with legal authority to operate in Allegheny County.
Uber has begun seeking drivers in State College, Reading and Erie for its UberX ride sharing service, which also operates in Pittsburgh.
PUC Chairman Robert Powelson: “...the long-held lore of unreliable Pittsburgh taxi service unfortunately is not supported by the evidence at my disposal.”
Confusion over where ride-share companies such as Lyft and Uber can pick up passengers at Pittsburgh International Airport prompted the Allegheny County Airport Authority to update its regulations July 1.
Yellow Cab is preparing to ask the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission for a rate increase, its first since 2006, even as it continues to try to fend off competition from ride- share companies Lyft and Uber.
A hearing on whether to grant ride-sharing company Lyft a permanent license to begin experimental service in Allegheny County and statewide is on hold, but the list of protests filed against the application has grown to include the Philadelphia Parking Authority and nearly five dozen taxi companies.
In order to accommodate witnesses, the hearings scheduled for Thursday and Friday in Pittsburgh for ride-sharing company Lyft have been rescheduled. The new hearing dates are Aug. 27 and Sept. 3
While on an errand Friday morning to pick up toothpaste and shampoo, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said he will continue to press the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and legislators for a resolution to the ride-sharing debate in Pittsburgh.
July 30: Uber hiring drivers in Harrisburg
Ride-sharing company Uber has begun hiring drivers in the Harrisburg area, putting the San Francisco-based company on the home turf of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which has battled Uber and its rival Lyft since the companies moved into Pennsylvania earlier this year.
Two Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission administrative law judges will hold separate hearings for Lyft and Uber in Pittsburgh next month to hear testimony on why the companies should be granted permanent licenses to operate in Allegheny County and statewide.
The vote by the five commissioners was unanimous. The agency's Bureau of Technical Utility Services recommended approving the applications, even though the PUC's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement had previously recommended denial.
After months of battling ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber, at its meeting today the state Public Utility Commission’s Bureau of Technical Utility Services will recommend the board grant the ride-sharing companies emergency licenses to operate in Allegheny County.
Rather than continuing to try to fight the well-funded San Francisco-based ride-share companies, James Campolongo, president of Yellow Cab, said his company is putting the final touches on a ride-sharing app of its own, in the time-tested strategy of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”
The petition is the second filed by ride-sharing services seeking emergency authority to operate. Uber has its own petition pending before the PUC, which may consider the matter at a meeting next Thursday.
The same enforcement officer who cited nearly two dozen ride-sharing drivers earlier this year issued 10 new citations to different drivers, in a sign that the state Public Utility Commission’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement continues to crack down on Lyft and Uber in Pittsburgh.
The enforcement arm of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is opposing an emergency application from ride-sharing company Uber to begin service in Allegheny County.
The traditional Pittsburgh driver knows the route to travel to avoid crossing the same river twice in one trip. But the new reality of Pittsburgh's roads has cars with pink mustaches and drivers with GPS systems beckoned by riders with smartphones who don't much care which way they go, as long as they show up on time.
Shared services might help the GOP win more often in cities, explain conservative activists Grover G. Norquist and Patrick Gleason.
For a weekend visitor to Washington the issue begs a simple question: In a country that celebrates choice and competition, why can’t Pennsylvanians have the same transportation options as their friends in D.C.?
As Uber awaits the outcome of its emergency application before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, state and local politicians gathered in Pittsburgh on Thursday to urge action that would make the ride share company and its rival Lyft legal in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania continued on the long and winding ride-sharing road Tuesday, with legislators trying to steer the Public Utility Commission toward a final destination.
Ride-sharing company Uber on Monday updated its emergency application to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission for permission to operate experimental service in Pennsylvania, adding signed supporting statements from Pittsburgh residents who say they need the service.
The Pennsylvania cease-and-desist orders issued this week will remain in effect on ride-share companies Lyft and Uber through the Independence Day weekend, despite a last-minute effort by officials to intervene.
July 3: EDITORIAL: Lyft and Uber: State officials must make ride-sharing a reality
Pennsylvania stands at a juncture: Do we live in a state that welcomes innovation, or are we wedded to the tired ways of the past?
Both companies strongly condemned the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s action and said they would not comply. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto expressed his support for “new business models.”
In their decision, the judges wrote, “... The Commission is charged with a higher duty than just the public convenience.” The orders required both Lyft and Uber to stop operating immediately in Pennsylvania.
Ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber should be ordered to shut down operations in the area immediately “because something disastrous could happen,” a prosecutor for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement argued before a two-judge panel in Pittsburgh
Representatives from ride-share companies Lyft and Uber explained to a House committee in Harrisburg on Monday how and when their insurance policies cover drivers and passengers. But the head of the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania said a much more coordinated effort is needed among insurance companies, ride-share companies and regulators to ensure consumers aren’t left by the side of the road
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto reiterated his support for Lyft and Uber, even as the state scheduled hearings to decide whether to issue cease-and-desist orders against the ride-sharing companies.
The Public Utility Commission's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement petitioned for cease-and-desist orders against Lyft and Uber to force them to stop operating in Pennsylvania.
When American ride sharing company Uber tried to move into the U.K., taxi drivers and train workers across Europe united in protest
Reporter Kim Lyons hosted a chat about the current situation and future of ride-sharing service after Yellow X and PUC’s fines.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission slapped tens of thousands of dollars in fines on ride-share companies Lyft and Uber, and filed new civil complaints against two dozen ride-share drivers for violating state law.
Yellow Cabs along Market Street in Downtown Pittsburgh. (Ethan Magoc/Post-Gazette)
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Thursday approved Yellow Cab Co.'s application to establish an experimental service modeled after peer-to-peer ride-sharing companies, called Yellow X.
Court records show PUC enforcement officer Charles Bowser cited 23 drivers of ride-share companies Lyft and Uber between March 31 and April 21.
Both Mr. Peduto and Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Chairman Robert Powelson have expressed support for the ride-share companies, which they say offer much-needed transportation choices for consumers. But the taxi companies have raised concerns about what they view as a lack of regulatory oversight for such entities.
Yellow Cab Co. of Pittsburgh has filed an application with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission for an alternative “call and demand” taxi service that would operate under the name “Yellow X.”
The new coverage area will include McKees Rocks and Robinson, the airport and "everything in between," the company said in a statement.
PartyParty-goers enter Olive or Twist during the launch party for Uber. (Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette)
It turns out you can get there from here. But how much you'll pay and how smoothly it will go may vary widely.
Following a meeting with Mayor Bill Peduto, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission said Monday that the agency has to change how it handles regulation for ride-share companies that have recently moved into Pittsburgh.
Feb. 20: Munch goes to The Pub Chip Shop
All this talk about Lyft and Uber casts Munch's memory back to a misty, long-ago era when the nights often ended with a trip to Piper's Pub, whose inscrutable bartenders locked the doors at unpredictable hours. To them, the standard South Side 2 a.m. closing time was but a suggestion, and getting tossed out of the bar at half-past midnight was not an unusual occurrence. Being jettisoned onto East Carson Street without a lift home meant calling a taxi -- and waiting, and waiting, and then waiting some more.
"As mayor, I support the expansion of transportation options in our city and recognize the need for a broader and more diverse suite of options to get people around town quickly, safely, and reliably," Mr. Peduto wrote in a letter to PUC executive director Jan Freeman on Tuesday.
The only thing reliable about taxis here is their unreliability. Waiting for hours or waiting in vain is the most predictable service offered by local cab companies. That’s why it’s good news that Lyft and Uber, car services in use in other cities, have arrived.
Lyft and Uber are freelance services that match up would-be taxi-takers with drivers who use their own cars to fill the large, frequent gaps in Pittsburgh's traditional taxi service. They're basically a smartphone jitney. And they wouldn't exist if we didn't need them.
Rob Rogers’ March 19 cartoon.
Pittsburgh-area taxi companies met Thursday with representatives of the state Public Utility Commission to discuss what could or should be done about two ride-sharing companies that have moved into the city.
As the region's two largest taxi companies prepare to fight to keep two ride-sharing companies from doing business in Pittsburgh, they also are battling their own image problems.
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.
Feb. 5: Lyft set to go in Pittsburgh
Lyft is one of a new generation of ride-sharing companies, including SideCar and Uber, that operate with drivers who use their own vehicles.