Lyft and Uber: State officials must make ride-sharing a reality

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Today, Thursday, July 3, 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?

No, this is not about state government’s liquor monopoly or Pennsylvania’s fractured system of municipalities. It’s about the state’s failure to take advantage of the arrival of Lyft and Uber, the ride-sharing services that offer alternatives to the unreliability of near-monopoly taxi companies.

Lyft and Uber, which are trying to launch service in various locations around the country, match drivers and passengers through smartphone apps and enable drivers to use their own cars to transport customers. But two administrative law judges of the Public Utility Commission issued cease-and-desist orders Tuesday against the ride-share companies, barring their service in Pennsylvania immediately. Although Lyft and Uber have applications pending before the PUC to establish “experimental” service, their drivers began operating without state approval.

It’s clear that the only way to open the road for ride-sharing companies is through new legislation. The governor and state lawmakers, however, have been too slow to respond, even though supportive bills are being prepared in both the House and Senate. 

Mayor Bill Peduto has been eager to see Lyft and Uber get a chance in Pittsburgh, given the perennial complaints surrounding Yellow Cab, and Philadelphia, too, has been eager for the new service. Mr. Corbett needs to use his influence to force legislative action. Although the Senate has recessed for the summer, it should return and work on ride-sharing with the House, which is still in session. If Pennsylvanians find their incumbent unresponsive, this is an election year — the perfect time for voters to make their views known and to reject lawmakers wedded to old thinking.

Lyft and Uber represent new forms of commerce and new ways of serving consumers, possibilities that should excite the ostensibly pro-business Republicans who control the governor’s office, the House and the Senate. But instead of focusing on how to pave the way for the services in Pennsylvania, lawmakers are embarking on a summer vacation they don’t deserve.

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