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Budget effect: UberX is legal in Philly, at least for now

Ridesharing in Philadelphia is now officially legal. Temporarily.

Deep in the fiscal code that passed the state Senate, the state House and the Governor’s desk today is language that legalizes ridesharing in Philadelphia through Sept. 30. This comes just days after the Philadelphia Parking Authority entered into an agreement that meant it would stand down from trying to stop UberX from operating within city limits.

The language doesn’t allow services like Uber and Lyft to accept rides from the Philadelphia Airport, designated tax stands or “organized lines of taxis” at hotels. Any driver that violates those terms five or more times can be disqualified from being allowed to drive within city limits by the PPA. The bill also imposes a 1 percent tax on ridesharing that goes to the PPA, which will keep a third of that revenue. The other two-thirds will be distributed to the School District of Philadelphia.

“We thank the leadership of the General Assembly for taking action to support ridesharing in Philadelphia. The legislation passed today will help ease transportation challenges in Philadelphia this summer, including during the DNC,” said Craig Ewer, Uber spokesman. “We look forward to the passage of permanent ridesharing legislation in the fall which will bring these benefits to all Pennsylvanians.”

The ridesharing language remains in effect until Sept. 30, or when a bill is passed that would legalize the services statewide, whichever comes first. The Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill last year that would have permanently legalized Uber and Lyft everywhere except Philadelphia. That carve-out was taken out of the legislation, and a state House committee passed the bill. But the full state House never held a vote on it.

The battle between Uber, Lyft and regulators in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia has been a long one. Both ridesharing services were granted two-year experimental licenses by the state Public Utility Commission to operate in the state, but that didn’t include Philadelphia, which regulates its taxis and limousines through the PPA.

Since UberX launched in Philadelphia in October 2014, the PPA has fought back against the ridesharing company from operating and even conducted sting operations to fine drivers and the companies for operating within city limits illegally.

However, last week the PPA and Uber held a joint press conference in which the PPA announced it would stand down and refrain from effectively prosecuting Uber for operating within the city, especially as the Democratic National Convention approaches and SEPTA’s Regional Rail faces a crisis of its own. That agreement has been challenged in court by members of the Unified Taxi Workers Alliance.

In Uber’s first year of operation in Philadelphia, it provided 700,000 rides given by more than 12,000 drivers.

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