Protests against Lyft are adding up

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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.

Meanwhile, Lyft’s Harrisburg-based attorney is seeking to have the only remaining protests by Allegheny County-area companies dismissed.

Back in April, Lyft filed two applications — one to operate experimental transportation service in Allegheny County and one for statewide service. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s administrative law judges consolidated the two applications into one proceeding but will issue separate decisions for each application, according to a pre-hearing order.

San Francisco-based Lyft and its rival Uber moved into the Pittsburgh area earlier this year, and have tangled with the PUC ever since. The companies connect drivers in their own vehicles with passengers via smartphone apps, but lack PUC licenses. The situation has led to proposed daily fines of $1,000 for each company, individual fines for drivers, and orders to each company to cease and desist operating.

On July 24, the PUC commissioners approved 60-day emergency licenses for each company. As of Wednesday, neither had met the requirements of the order, meaning the cease-and-desist orders remain active.

Two of the initial protests against Lyft’s application to begin permanent service — from the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania and a group calling itself the Pennsylvania Association for Justice — were dismissed by the administrative law judges, which found neither had standing in the proceedings.

Lyft’s attorney in Harrisburg, Adeolu A. Bakare, filed a brief dated July 31 that seeks to have two more objections to the permanent Allegheny County application dismissed. Mr. Bakare argues that protester JB Taxi doesn’t have a license to operate in Allegheny County. The other, Executive Transportation, is a limousine company, which should disqualify it from standing as well, the brief states.

That would be in keeping with the PUC’s recent approval of a similar application by Yellow Cab to establish its own ride-sharing app, Yellow Z, Mr. Bakare argues in his brief; that approval noted that “sufficient differences exist” between existing and “experimental” app-based services, and limousine and call-on-demand services.

A PUC spokeswoman said Wednesday that if all protests in a case were dismissed, theoretically that would eliminate the need for a hearing. Indeed, the Yellow Cab ride-share application went through without a hearing, in part because no protests were filed against it.

The Philadelphia Parking Authority oversees taxi regulation in Philadelphia, and its protest to the Lyft statewide application argues that the ride-share company is attempting to circumvent its authority by applying directly to the PUC, which oversees taxis in the rest of the state.

The new dates for Lyft’s hearing are Aug. 27 and Sept. 3. A hearing for Uber’s application for permanent experimental service is scheduled for Aug. 18 and 19.

Kim Lyons: or 412-263-1241. On Twitter: @SocialKimly.

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