The Philadelphia Parking Authority and Uber made their truce official this morning: the PPA will allow UberX and UberPOOL to operate in Philadelphia through September 30.
And truce is probably the best word for the arrangement. Leaders from both sides shook hands and exchanged a hat but made this much clear: The fight between Uber and the PPA is far from over.
Here are eight highlights of what was at times a strange press conference:
UberX launched in Philly in October 2014 but until today the PPA maintained it was an illegal, hack service. Vince Fenerty, executive director of the PPA, said during SEPTA’s Regional Rail crisis and with the DNC coming to town, the organization wanted Philadelphia to shine.
Of course, Philadelphia has been on the world stage other times, notably last year for the pope’s visit. Fenerty said things are different now because the two sides, as well as Lyft, have been meeting for several months, discussing terms for a bill that would legalize ride-sharing in Philadelphia (both sides hope the bill will be passed before their deal ends on September 30).
“We expected it to be legalized by the end of June,” Fenerty said. “It has not happened….Our attorneys on both sides have agreed we can take this step for 90 days. It’s more like a probationary period. And we’re going to use this probationary period to let Philly shine.”
Or as the PPA’s legal counsel, Dennis Weldon, put it, “We’re not blind to the fact that months ago Uber had announced a million people used it. We’re trying to deal with the reality.”
It just took them a really long time.
Will Uber riders notice any changes?
It’s likely much of Philadelphia’s population didn’t even realize UberX and UberPOOL were illegal. Just like yesterday, you’ll still be able to use your app to get a driver. One difference might be the offering of more rides. Fenerty said he expected more drivers to join or current drivers to drive more often because of the agreement. More drivers could mean fewer surge prices and shorter wait times. That would be a nice change for Philadelphia.
Lyft is not included
The PPA says it reached out to Lyft to be part of this agreement but did not reach a deal.
Uber’s still not ‘legal’
Fenerty first said Uber would operate until September 30 as a “semi-legalized company,” but he quickly walked it back in this awkward exchange after a reporter used the phrase “semi-legalizing” in a question.
Fenerty: “We’re not ‘semi-legalizing’ it.”
Reporter: “That was your word.”
Fenerty: “Yes, that was my word. But basically we’re going to stand down for three months.”
The PPA won’t do any regulating
Remember how one of the PPA’s major problems with Uber was the PPA believed the PPA should be regulation Uber? Well, the PPA is not going to be doing any regulating from now until September 30. Fenerty said the PPA would step in only if a problem arose. Jon Feldman, UberPhilly’s GM, said Uber in Philadelphia has been following the same regulations imposed upon it in the rest of the state by the Pennsylvania Utility Commission: $1 million insurance and background checks for drivers.
The PPA’s thoughts about cab drivers: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Remember how the Daily News broke a story showing collusion between the PPA and taxis to keep UberX illegal in Philly? Well, the PPA doesn’t seem to care as much about the cab industry anymore.
“The cab drivers might not be happy,” Fenerty said, “but this is a free market.”
That answer probably won’t sit well with the cab industry. Asked about an agreement between Uber and the PPA yesterday, Ronald Blount, leader of the Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania, said, “I think it’s bad. I think the legislators should do it.”
Cab drivers have already announced they would not strike during the DNC.
Uber still doesn’t want to talk to about ADA-accessible vehicles
A major issue for cabs and ride-sharing vehicles in recent years has been the amount of ADA-accessible vehicles on the roads. Uber declined to reveal how many it has in Philadelphia. After Feldman was questioned about this by a reporter, another member of Uber’s team stepped up to the podium in place of him. She suggested another reporter ask questions. But the reporters were in agreement: They wanted Feldman to answer the question about ADA-accessible vehicles. He declined again.
Yep, things got a little awkward at the press conference
When two groups who have been locked in a dispute for nearly two years get together in public, some funny exchanges are bound to happen that’s exactly what happened. After Fenerty said he would taken an Uber today for the first time, he offered Feldman a PPA hat. Feldman put it on. Then they shook hands.
Later on, while explaining why the agreement was made now, Fenerty said he “felt the sincerity” from the Uber GM on down.
“I won’t shake your hand if I don’t believe you,” Fenerty said. “I trust that he is an honorable man at this point.”
They went to shake hands again. But it wasn’t quite the same. Feldman had already taken off the hat.