Bill Peduto wants the Pennsylvania Utility Commission to change its policies to legalize not only these new ride-sharing apps like Lyft and Uber, but also other paratransit services like jitneys that the PUC currently bans.
Cars are dangerous, which is why rules licensing people to drive cars and requiring them to carry insurance are so important.
But once the state has confirmed people are suitable drivers, they should be allowed to rent empty seats in their cars if they want to. Carpooling isn’t banned, after all, and you don’t have to get a commercial insurance policy or a special license to do that.
So the only real rationale for PUC’s policy granting monopoly status to Yellow Cab in Pittsburgh, or capping taxi medallions at a measly 1750 in Philly, is to secure a fat stream of monopoly profits for incumbent fleet owners.
That sucks for taxi customers, as monopolist taxi companies set prices high, and it turns rides-for-hire into a luxury that only upper middle class people can afford to take very often. The service is also often terrible. Peduto says there have been at least 20 instances where he’s personally been let down by the local cab cartel, but he’s tried Lyft twice now and it’s been very convenient.
Restricting the market for rides-for-hire also increases car dependence, and reinforces the one-car per-person dynamic which is becoming unaffordable and wasteful.More people in cities would probably decide to ditch their cars and save some money if rides-for-hire were cheaper and more plentiful.
Legalizing paratransit in particular would be very exciting, because while this is a segment of the transportation market that’s traditionally operated in the shadows because it’s illegal, this could turn into a legit private transit option midway between charter buses and taxis that serves smaller cities and first ring suburbs across the state who have limited transit networks.
Liberalizing the ride-for-hire rules is clearly in the public interest, but the current PUC appointees see their job as protecting monopoly rents for the incumbent fleet owners.
But we’re coming up on a big Governor election, and it’s the Governor who appoints the PUC members. What do the Democratic candidates for Governor think about this? Do they support Bill Peduto trying to make transportation in his city cheaper and more convenient?