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Philly ride-sharing bill passes state House, heads to Senate

Uber and Lyft are thisclose to being legal.

Philadelphia’s long war with ride-sharing is close to ending. Late Wednesday afternoon the Pennsylvania House unanimously passed a bill legalizing the service throughout Pennsylvania, nearly a year after the bill originally passed the Senate and two years after UberX started illegally operating in Philadelphia.

The bill’s passing isn’t a done deal quite yet. Because of amendments made to the bill the Senate will have to vote on it again. After that it would reach the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf, who has supported ride-sharing legalization efforts.

While amendments have held up the bill for so long, this latest version contained an amendment that counts as good news for the Philadelphia School District. The bill dictates that ride-sharing companies must give 1.4 percent of their city revenues to the Philadelphia Parking Authority. The PPA will keep one-third of that money and dispense the remaining two-thirds to the school district. A previous version of the bill had a taxing plan that wouldn’t have guaranteed the school district any funding.     

The House’s passing of the bill comes after a tumultuous month for ride-sharing in Philly. A temporary truce between Uber, Lyft and the PPA that was part of the state budget in July expired Oct. 1. About a week later, a Philadelphia judge ordered the ride-sharing companies stop operating in Philadelphia or face contempt of court. That ruling was scuttled by an injunction the next day.

Although passengers have never had to worry about repercussions from using the service, drivers have faced the threat of fines and the PPA impounding their cars. Those days will be ancient history if this bill gets through the Senate.

The bill essentially establishes guidelines for drivers, background checks, vehicular requirements and insurance, as well as a nondiscrimination policy and policies to ensure ADA passengers can use the services. It would require the ride-sharing companies to have at least 70 wheelchair accessible vehicles available in Philly by next June, with the possibility of adding up to 10 more vehicles per year in the coming years if the state determines more are needed to satisfy demand.

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