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TMCNet:  Peduto to ask PUC to let new ride services operate in city [The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review :: ]

[February 18, 2014]

Peduto to ask PUC to let new ride services operate in city [The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review :: ]

(Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 18--Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto came down firmly in favor of smartphone-centered ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber on Tuesday, urging the state Public Utility Commission and the Legislature to amend regulations to allow the companies to operate.


"(We will) ask the PUC to change their rules, either internally or through legislative process," Peduto said. "Let me be clear about this: Competition in anything is good. It creates a better product." Peduto said he will lobby lawmakers to carve out a niche for Lyft and Uber, which began offering rides for hire from vehicle owners in Pittsburgh this month. The mayor wrote to the PUC outlining his proposal.

The companies, which use an app and GPS to book and view rides, have riled traditional taxi companies Pittsburgh Transportation Group and Star Transportation Group, which claim they are illegal because they don't follow PUC licensing rules and fees.

Jamie Campolongo, president of Pittsburgh Transportation, which operates Yellow Cab, has said the companies establish an uneven playing field. He could not be reached for comment.

PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said the agency is reviewing Lyft and Uber operations, and preparing to cite them.

"We welcome (Peduto's) suggestions and are looking forward to hearing his recommendations," Kocher said. "No one has done their due diligence and come to us with their business model and explained what regulations don't work for them and what changes they would need." Peduto and City Councilman Dan Gilman contend PUC rules are onerous for part-time Lyft and Uber drivers, and act to freeze out competition. Peduto said changes could enable the companies and jitney drivers to operate legally.

Lyft and Uber users book rides and pay by credit card with smartphones. Drivers use their personal cars. Lyft drivers sport a giant pink mustache hooked to the front of their cars to identify them. Both tech-savvy companies are based in San Francisco.

"Our hope is that today will spark the beginning of a thoughtful, productive conversation around peer-to-peer transportation in Pittsburgh and the state of Pennsylvania," Lyft spokeswoman Paige Thelen said. "Like many states, current rules were written prior to a solution like Lyft being introduced." The companies have clashed with traditional cab companies in other cities.

Bobby Kerlik is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7886 orbkerlik@tribweb.com.

___ (c)2014 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.) Visit The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.) at www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib Distributed by MCT Information Services

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