Transportation
3:40 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Sen. Fontana Urges PUC To Issue Temporary Permits To Ride Sharing Companies

The ride-sharing company Uber has asked the Public Utility Commission (PUC) for an emergency permit, which would allow the company to resume experimental service.

State Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) started drafting legislation last week that would legalize ride-sharing in Pennsylvania.

The PUC Tuesday issued a statement regarding SB 1457.  “We have been working with Sen. Fontana and fully support his legislation that would provide an option for transportation network companies to operate legally within the state. We are pleased that he has taken this initiative and introduced this legislation. We look forward to assisting Sen. Fontana as he seeks passage of this important measure in the fall.”

In the meantime, Fontana has introduced a symbolic resolution calling on the PUC to issue temporary permits to ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber, allowing them to operate while his legislation makes its way through the state system.

Fontana said the temporary permits would allow Lyft and Uber drivers to “exist without hassle.”

“As long as they have the criteria, the oversight, the regulation that’s in this legislation, if they have it in place, then we’re asking them (the PUC) to issue them (ride-sharing companies) a temporary license until the legislation could be signed into law.”

State Rep. Erin Molchany (D-Allegheny) has put forth a similar measure in the House.

With the General Assembly preparing to recess for the summer, Fontana’s bill most likely won’t be considered until sessions resume in September. He’s hoping the House and Senate come to a decision before the end of the year.

Fontana’s bill would establish a “transportation network company” (another way of saying ride-sharing companies), as well as driver-training programs and a zero-tolerance alcohol policy for drivers. The legislation would also require specific levels of insurance coverage and vehicle inspections.

Fontana said he doesn’t expect much opposition because the legislation caters to both sides of the issue.

“There’s obviously a gap in the service at it exists and this filled the gap nicely and the folks have responded in a positive way.”

Lyft and Uber, which allow users to connect to available drivers via a smartphone, were ordered to cease-and-desist last week by two PUC administrative judges. Despite the ruling, the companies have continued to operate in Pennsylvania.

Uber replied with a written statement: “Despite the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission decision today to support special interests over consumers, Uber will operate as usual and continue providing Pittsburghers with access to safe, affordable and reliable rides.”