By some weird accident of history, the city of Philadelphia doesn’t have the same taxi regulator as the rest of the state. Whereas the Public Utilities Commission sets the rules for taxis in Pittsburgh and elsewhere, the Philadelphia Parking Authority is the taxi regulator for Philly.
It’s great to see Bill Peduto and his state allies, including our Brian Sims, are pushing a legislative fix for the derp that’s been flowing out of the PUC on ride-
rental share companies Uber and Lyft in recent months – the latest being this cease-and-desist order barring them from operating in Pennsylvania. But it’s critical that the legislative fix – which will probably take the form of a new “transportation network” category in the PUC code – also apply to the PPA as well as PUC. Ideally, the legislation would make the PUC the regulator for all Pennsylvania, and take that power away from the PPA.
The PUC and the PPA unfortunately do not seem to understand that the job of the regulators is to promote competition for the benefit of consumers, not protect taxi fleet monopolists or medallion owner rents – one of the worst affronts to taxi drivers’ livelihoods here in Philly, as the Taxi Workers Alliance will tell you. PPA kicked out ride-share service Sidecar last summer, and Uber X won’t come here even though they’re expanding across the river in South Jersey because they say “the city of Philadelphia has proven time and time again to be against innovation.”
This is nuts. As former transportation head of DC and Chicago Gabe Klein explains in this CityLab post today, the future of transportation is increasingly about these networked services, and it’ll eventually give way to autonomous vehicles. Dumb laws meant to protect a wealthy minority of fleet owners shouldn’t be allowed to stop this innovation, and any state-level legislative fix needs to apply to Philly as well as Pittsburgh. The taxi regulation power is too important to leave to the PPA – a known Republican patronage potty.