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UberPhilly

New bill seeks to legalize rapidly-growing Uber in Philadelphia

The ride-sharing provider now has 12,000 drivers in Philadelphia, and it’s added 6,000 over the last three months alone.

A state senator wants to finally make it legal to take an UberX in Philadelphia.

Late Thursday, Sen. Camera Bartolotta, a Republican from western PA, announced new legislation that would essentially establish a framework for ridesharing regulations in Pennsyvlania. As of now, no such regulations exist, and past efforts to create some have failed, despite vocal support for ridesharing in Philadelphia from City Council and Mayor Michael Nutter.

Bartolotta’s bill would establish ground rules for Uber and Lyft in Pennsylvania, including insurance, safety requirements and accident-reporting protocols. But most importantly it would legalize the services in every county in the state — including Philadelphia.

“We applaud Sen. Bartolotta for taking this positive step forward in building on the strong foundation of Sen. Fontana’s regulatory framework, ensuring safe, reliable rides and the jobs they create are available to Pennsylvanians across the entire state,” Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work with Pennsylvania lawmakers to advance this legislation that protects consumer choice and the thousands of jobs that have been created throughout the Commonwealth, including the more than 12,000 jobs right here in Philadelphia.”

UberX, the ridesharing company’s low-cost option that utilizes drivers without commercial licenses, launched here in October and immediately generated controversy. The state-run Philadelphia Parking Authority regulates limos and taxis in the city and, when UberX launched here, it put together a “sting operation” to catch Uber drivers and impound their cars. (Basically they downloaded the app and then called an Uber, so…)

But the PPA has relaxed in the number of cars it has impounded (as of mid-June, 44 Uber vehicles and 16 Lyft vehicles had been impounded, according to the PPA) and the Public Utility Commission has allowed Uber to operate legally throughout the rest of the state — everywhere except Philly.

Whatever the case, Uber’s here, and it’s growing exponentially. The ridesharing company now has more than 12,000 drivers in Philadelphia alone, a number that grew from 6,000 in the last three months alone. Of those 6,000 new drivers, about 1,500 have been women — one of Uber’s targets for more drivers. For context, there were just 2,500 Uber drivers in Philadelphia in January.

The new figures, provided to Billy Penn by Bennett, are welcome news for a company that’s fought for the right to exist in a city that doesn’t legally recognize it — even as taxi insurance companies go bankrupt (like First Keystone did in October), and outdated laws don’t explicitly lay out rules and regulations for ridesharing.

Because Philadelphia now boasts 12,000 drivers (or “driver-partners,” as Uber calls them) this city is now likely in the top several U.S. cities using Uber, but still behind New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Chicago. Boston currently has about 10,000 drivers, and updated figures weren’t available for other cities. But this is what the numbers looked like in January:

uber by the numbers
Courtesy of Uber

The new numbers also mean the amount of drivers in Philadelphia far exceeds the number of cabs. The city has 1,600 taxi medallions, and even though many Uber drivers are working part time and some work for Uber’s limo service, Uber Black, the vast majority work for the low-priced UberX.

“The growth has come from the flexibility. People want to be able to be their own boss and earn a good income,” Bennett said. “Philly has been tremendously quick to adopt ridesharing.”

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