UPDATE, noon Monday: UberX says it will continue operating in Philadelphia, and the PPA has vowed to continue impounding and fining its drivers. Details here.
UberX launched in Philadelphia this weekend, offering its cheaper service for free after about 25 percent of Philadelphia taxis were put out of use on Friday when they lost their insurance policies. The Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) maintains UberX is illegal and threatened to impound the vehicles of UberX drivers. Obviously, differentiating an UberX from any regular car is no easy task. But the PPA found a way around it: They held sting operations to bust UberX drivers.
How does a PPA sting look? Pretty hardcore to say the least. Around 7 p.m. Saturday outside of the Ritz 5 movie theater in Society Hill, a white UberX vehicle picked up two men. Suddenly, two PPA enforcement cars, each coming from different sides of the street, flashed their lights and surrounded the car. Two police officers then arrived on horseback. Four PPA enforcement officers got out of the vehicles and swarmed the UberX car. The two men in the backseat of the UberX car immediately got into cars of the PPA enforcement officers while the driver was removed from his vehicle and questioned for several minutes.
Taylor Bennett, an Uber spokesperson, confirmed there had been stings of UberX drivers Saturday night in Philadelphia.
“This is an abuse of power and a deliberate attempt to protect the status quo that has failed Philadelphians for too long,” a statement from Uber read. “With $1M insurance policy and the most stringent background checks, Uber is the safest ride on the road. Harassing our partners for getting people around town safely when a third of the taxis in the city lack adequate insurance is harmful and irresponsible.”
Philly Mag quoted a senior PPA official who said five UberX drivers were pulled over as part of the sting operation. The PPA impounded the cars and fined the drivers $1,000.
“I almost felt sorry for two of the drivers,” said the senior PPA official to Philly Mag. “They both had the same exact story that they were told it was legal and that everything would be fine.”