Update 9:50 a.m.
After a short discussion Wednesday morning, the bill passed the House Committee on Consumer Affairs. The bill will now head to the full House for a vote. If the full House approves, the bill will head to the governor’s desk.
Take UberX or Lyft in Philly? It’s a big day for you. It’s an even bigger day for the ridesharing companies that stand to make millions in Pennsylvania if their services are officially legalized.
A key committee in the Pennsylvania is set to consider a bill today that would legalize ridesharing services across Pennsylvania — including in Philadelphia — and create a regulatory structure for the companies to operate here.
UberX and Lyft currently operate on a two-year temporary license granted by the Public Utility Commission throughout Pennsylvania, except in Philadelphia where the Philadelphia Parking Authority oversees taxis and limo services.
The bill up for consideration in the House Committee on Consumer affairs, introduced by western Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Camera Bartolotta in September, has been the most successful effort thus far to regulate ridesharing across the state, including in Philadelphia. The bill overwhelmingly passed the Senate in November and will head to the full House if it’s approved by the committee today.
The bill establishes a regulatory framework for “Transportation Network Companies” and allows for the Public Utility Commission to regulate the companies everywhere in Pennsylvania outside Philadelphia. Here in the city, the Philadelphia Parking Authority would still have regulatory power over ridesharing services.
The bill also puts in place safety requirements, like a mandatory $1,000,000 insurance liability coverage, multi-state background checks for drivers, annual car inspections, sex offender screening and driving history records.
As originally written, the bill would require a 1 percent fee on all trips to be split between the PPA and the School District of Philadelphia. If passed as is, the bill could theoretically bring in some $30 million to the district over the next decade.
Uber’s launched its own efforts to drum up support for the bill, including an ad campaign and an online petition that’s garnered more than 100,000 signatures. Federal Communications Commission records show Uber purchased ads set to run on NBC10 through May 8.
It was unclear as of last month whether Philadelphia would be included in the ridesharing legalization bill after Chairman of the House Committee on Consumer Affairs Rep. Robert Godshall, R-Montgomery, told The Daily News the committee hadn’t “solved the Philadelphia situation.”
“We’re looking at probably passing a bill, but whether Philly will be in or out,” he said, “I don’t know yet.”
According to The Daily News, language existed in the bill that made it difficult for the airport to forge partnerships with ridesharing companies and the city opposed that language in a letter sent to Godshall that offered new language to be added into the bill.
The state-run PPA, which operates taxis in Philly, has publicly said it supports legislation that would regulate UberX and Lyft in the city. Meanwhile, cab companies and taxi driver unions have vehemently opposed ridesharing operations in the city by threatening to strike and protesting by snarling traffic in Center City.
As UberX and Lyft push for today’s bill to pass through committee, Uber is also in a battle with the PUC after it levied an $11.3 million fine — the largest fine in the agency’s history — earlier this month on the ridesharing company for operating in Pittsburgh illegally in 2014. Gov. Tom Wolf and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto this week blasted the punishment, saying Uber has invested millions in Pennsylvania and fining them paints PA as “not a welcoming place for 21st century businesses.”
After UberX’s first year of operating in Philly, more than 12,000 drivers had brought in a combined $30 million. The ridesharing company continues to add services in Philadelphia, including UberPOOL, which allows riders to share cars with strangers heading in a similar direction for a reduced price.