Ride-sharing in Philly

City councilman Jim Kenney on UberX, the PPA’s power play and begging for permission from Harrisburg


Philadelphia councilman Jim Kenney has experienced some awful service from cabs in this city. He’s had drivers who smoke, talk on their cell phone nonstop and and argue about accepting his credit card. So he’s a huge fan of Uber Black. In early October, he proposed hearings about ridesharing in hopes of getting UberX officially legalized.

So in the middle of the UberX mess, Billy Penn talked to Kenney about why things are so broken, and whether the city, the PPA and the ride-sharing service can find common ground. Here’s what we found:

The PPA wants to maintain its power: The PPA has been in charge of running the taxi industry for 10 years. Any changes brought on by ridesharing could disrupt its regulatory hold over this type of transportation in Philadelphia.

“I like the PPA,” Kenney said. “I think they are very effective and efficient and good collectors of fines. I think without them there would be parking madness. But in this particular case I know they’ve been tasked by the legislature with enforcement of cab regulation, so maybe they feel they’re protecting their authority and wouldn’t be able to do the same thing with UberX and Lyft. And they’re seemingly overreacting to this.”

The mayor could do more than tweet:

Mayor Michael Nutter voiced his support for UberX and ridesharing services via Twitter on Monday. Kenney said that if Nutter really wanted to make ridesharing a reality in Philadelphia he should tell city police not to assist the PPA with the seizing of UberX vehicles.

“The mayor can simply say our priorities are crime fighting and not assisting one industry to have a monopoly over another,” Kenney said. “That’s a waste of our police resources.”

Harrisburg is where the issue will likely get resolved: Earlier this year, legislators failed to pass a bill that would have legalized ridesharing. In the end, Kenney said the main actions that he and other local politicians can make consist of holding hearings or using their position to speak publicly about ridesharing. Their actual actions are limited.

“We’re supposed to have home rule in Philly but that’s really a joke,” Kenney said. “We have to go to Harrisburg to change our underwear.”

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