Uber becomes second ride-sharing company approved in Allegheny County

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Thursday gave San Francisco ride-sharing company Uber the green light in Allegheny County, granting it a temporary license to operate.

The certificate of public convenience to operate experimental service is good for 60 days, and means Uber is no longer under a July 1 cease-and-desist order.

Its rival ride-share company Lyft received its certificate of public convenience Aug. 14, also good for 60 days.

In an email to Pittsburgh-area subscribers Thursday, Uber thanked Pittsburghers for their support. “Time and time again, we’ve seen just how impactful our users can be in cities and states across the country,” the email read. “And today, the power of your voice right here in Pittsburgh is clear.”

Uber and Lyft, which connect drivers in their own vehicles with passengers via smartphone apps, have raised the ire of taxi companies and regulators since moving into the Pittsburgh area earlier this year, despite support from Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and others in the area.

The PUC awarded emergency temporary authority to each company at its July 24 meeting, effective when the companies met several attached conditions. The companies had to show that their insurance policies provided primary coverage while drivers conduct ride-share business and meet PUC standards. Ride-share vehicles and drivers must also meet PUC standards under the terms of the emergency temporary authority.

Next up for the ride-sharing companies: securing permanent PUC approval to operate.

A hearing for Lyft’s permanent application begins Wednesday. The hearing for Uber’s permanent application was held in Pittsburgh this week, and the company is awaiting a ruling from the PUC administrative law judges. One item that remains outstanding is Uber’s refusal to provide information about the number of trips taken while a cease-and-desist order was in effect. How that issue is resolved may affect the judges’ decision.

It was a busy week for the larger of the two ride-share companies doing business in Pittsburgh. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announced Tuesday the company was hiring political strategist and former Obama adviser David Plouffe as senior vice president of policy and strategy.

And the company opened its technology to a small group of companies, such as United Airlines and online restaurant reservation site OpenTable. That means those companies can integrate Uber’s software into their platforms. OpenTable, for instance, will let customers who book a table at a restaurant to also book a ride to the restaurant with an Uber driver.

First Published August 21, 2014 11:27 AM

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