Reverse course: Yellow Cab seeks to join the ride-share business

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Yellow Cab Co. seems to believe that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Earlier this year, the region’s dominant taxi service went head-on at two new ride-share companies that started operations in Pittsburgh, asking Mayor Bill Peduto for beefed up enforcement against Lyft and Uber. The Transportation Group, which includes Yellow Cab, seemed to have antiquated state law on its side. The Public Utility Commission says services in which drivers use their own cars are illegal, and that anyone taking a fare must have a commercial license, a view that favors existing, traditional companies.

Now, though, Yellow Cab has made a U-turn, at least as far as its own business practices are concerned. It is creating its own new model, called “Yellow X.” Like Lyft and Uber, drivers for Yellow X would be able to use their personal cars.

The difference is that Yellow X vehicles would be inspected and drivers would be trained by the cab company. The Yellow X drivers would take overflow calls from Yellow Cab’s dispatchers or direct customers through a smartphone app, as Lyft and Uber do.

Yellow Cab is seeking PUC approval for what is referred to as “call and demand” taxi service.

Pittsburgh has been desperate for more taxi alternatives for years. Service to many neighborhoods is slow and unreliable; in other parts of town, it is nonexistent. If this new approach by Yellow Cab means it will take a live-and-let-live approach to the other ride shares, that’s good news. If it is just another way to shore up its monopoly, that’s bad news.

This matter is not likely to be settled without clear legislation from Harrisburg that puts ride-share services on sound legal footing. Then, if Yellow X can match the performance of other operators, it will win its share of customers fairly.

Pittsburgh hasn’t reached that destination yet.

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