Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ride-Share Firms Gain More Traction in Pa. Talks

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ride-Share Firms Gain More Traction in Pa. Talks

Article excerpt

Following a meeting with Mayor Bill Peduto, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission said Monday that the agency has to change how it handles regulation for ride-share companies that have recently moved into Pittsburgh.

PUC chairman Robert Powelson is not sure what that change might look like yet, but at least one state representative said she was willing to sponsor legislation if necessary.

"These applications force us to get outside our 1960s regulations and come into 2014," Mr. Powelson said. "We as a commission need to get out of our own way and embrace and work with these carriers."

The applications in question are Lyft and Uber, two San Francisco- based companies that enlist drivers to use their own vehicles and connect with passengers via smartphone apps. Their arrival in Pittsburgh has been met with staunch resistance from the two biggest taxi companies in the city, which urged the mayor to allow city police officers to cite ride-share drivers for violating the law.

But prior to the meeting with Mr. Powelson, the mayor said he wanted to ensure that the PUC understood that enforcing taxi regulations "is not something we consider a priority for public safety within the city."

Mr. Peduto and city Councilman Dan Gilman last week proposed amending Chapter 29 of the PUC code to create a new class of regulated transportation service providers.

The idea could look like what the California Public Utilities Commission did in September, when it created a new class of business known as a Transportation Network Companies.

State Rep. Erin Molchany, D-Mount Washington, said she would sponsor legislation if necessary, to ensure ride-share companies can operate legally.

"My interest is finding the best way to help move people around, to give them options and alternatives," Ms. Molchany said.

"This is a public safety issue, and it's something we need to look at in the 21st century."

Mr. Peduto said Rep. Ed Gainey had also expressed interest in sponsoring legislation, but the Lincoln-Lemington Democrat did not reply to requests for comment Monday.

The mayor added that he wanted to address the issue of decriminalizing jitneys, which have operated in the region for decades, but without regulatory approval. …

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