Uber seeks emergency status permit to keep ride-sharing services in drive



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.

Among the statements: “Having Uber around is crucial to helping me do my job and live my life more easily,” “Please don’t make life in Pittsburgh boring again,” and “I can say absolutely that not having this great service will affect my life in a very negative way.”

The state PUC will make the call on whether an emergency exists, but the plea picked up support on Monday from state Rep. Erin Molchany, D-Mount Washington, who filed a resolution to urge the commission to expedite ride-sharing companies’ applications to begin experimental service in the state.

Lyft protests PUC order

Pittsburgh Lyft drivers protested the PUC's cease-and-desist order on Sunday. (Video by Connor Mulvaney; 7/7/2014)

On July 1, an administrative law judge ordered Uber and rival ride-sharing company Lyft to cease and desist operations in Pennsylvania.

Both companies continue to operate as they had previously, with no sign of slowing down. The San Francisco-based companies connect drivers in their own vehicles with potential passengers via a smartphone app, although neither has license to operate a motor carrier in Pennsylvania.

Uber’s subsidiary Raiser PA filed its emergency application on Wednesday, citing a need for its service in Allegheny County.

On Sunday, about two dozen Lyft drivers gathered at the Waterfront in Homestead to show they were still driving.

“I wasn’t really nervous, because the police aren’t pulling over drivers,” said organizer Brad Hoffman of Beechview. He has been with Lyft since its launch in February and is a mentor who trains other drivers.

Mr. Hoffman said Uber tried to recruit him, even offering him $1,000 to make one Uber trip. “I had no intent to stick with them,” he said. “I love Lyft; I plan to stay with Lyft.”

Ms. Molchany’s resolution states, “This demand for alternative transportation options has opened the door for fresh and innovative ride-sharing companies, like Uber and Lyft, to fill the vacancy left by existing taxi services in Pittsburgh.”

The House should “urge the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to approve applications for experimental licenses submitted by mobile-based ride-sharing companies that are operating in cities of the second class,” the resolution says.

Pittsburgh is the only city in Pennsylvania with a “second class” designation, which, under the state Constitution, is assigned to a city with a population between 250,000 and 1 million residents.

Ms. Molchany attempted to file the resolution Thursday in advance of the holiday weekend but couldn’t because the House clerk’s office was closed.

PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher noted Monday the PUC had suggested to Uber on March 14 that it file an emergency application, which grants 90-day conditional license to operate.

Instead, the San Francisco company chose to file a full application. That is pending a PUC hearing because protests were filed against it.

The PUC does not have any status in Ms. Molchany’s resolution petition, but Ms. Kocher reiterated the PUC’s stance that it is enforcing the law as written but would welcome legislation to better clarify rules differentiating ride shares from taxis.

“We appreciate the interest and support any legislation that provides a new category for transportation network companies” such as Lyft and Uber, Ms. Kocher said.

View Ms. Molchany's resolution below.

 

 

Kim Lyons: klyons@post-gazette.com or 412.263.1241. On Twitter: @SocialKimLy First Published July 7, 2014 12:00 AM

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