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Commission Sets Precedent to Extend Uber’s and Lyft’s Authority to Operate in Pennsylvania

On June 30, 2016, at its most recent public meeting, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“Commission”) set a precedent important to Pennsylvania Uber (operating in Pennsylvania under its subsidiary Raiser-PA) and Lyft users alike by granting Yellow Cab Company of Pittsburgh, Inc. (“Yellow Cab”), a temporary extension of one year of operating authority to provide Transportation Network Service (“TNC”) in Pennsylvania.[1] Although Yellow Cab may no longer be a household name like Uber and Lyft, the service that it provides is identical. In fact, Yellow Cab was the first Transportation Network Service (“TNC”) or app-based transportation provider that was granted temporary authority to operate in Pennsylvania.[2] But under the Commission’s regulations, TNC authority is considered “experimental” and therefore is temporary and only valid for two years.[3] Yellow Cab was granted authority to operate beginning in July 2014 and without the Commission’s June 30th Order, it would have been required to cease operating on July 1, 2016.

However, the Commission believed that disrupting Yellow Cab’s services while the legislature is attempting to work towards a framework[4] for TNC providers such as Yellow Cab, Uber, and Lyft would be “unnecessary” and detrimental to the public.[5] In justification of its decision, the Commission stressed that an extension to Yellow Cab’s authority was appropriate because, during its two years of operation, Yellow Cab has remained vigilant in its compliance with Commission regulations.[6]

By granting Yellow Cab this temporary one-year extension, the Commission has provided itself with precedent to provide a similar extension to Uber (Raiser-PA) and Lyft when their respective two-year periods run out in January 2017. Only time will tell whether Uber (Raiser-PA) and Lyft are granted a one year extensions of their temporary authority to operate. At least in the case of Uber (Raiser-PA), however, one is left to wonder, whether the Commission, after having stressed Yellow Cab’s continued compliance with Commission regulations as a justification for granting its extension, will grant Uber such an extension given that the Commission recently fined it $11 million dollars for having “deliberately engaged in the most unprecedented series of willful violation of Commission orders and regulations in the history of this agency.”[7] A more detailed discussion of the fine imposed on Uber (Raiser-PA) can be found here.

[1] Application of Yellow Cab Company of Pittsburgh, Inc., t/a Yellow Z, Order Granting Petition for Waiver of Commission Regulation 52 Pa. Code § 29.352, Docket No. A-2014-2410269 (June 30, 2016).

[2] Application of Yellow Cab Company of Pittsburgh, Inc., t/a Yellow Z, Order Granting Application, Docket No. A-2014-2410269 (May 22, 2014).

[3] See, 52 Pa. Code § 29.352.

[4] Both chambers of the Pennsylvania General Assembly have considered TNC-framework legislation in the 2015 – 2016 session, but such a framework has not been passed to date. Senate Bills considered include SB 984, 749, and 763; House Bills considered include HB 1065, 1290, 2445, 2453, and 241.

[5] Seesupra note 1, Chairman Brown’s Motion to Grant One-Year Extension.

[6] Id.

[7] Pa. Publ. Util. Comm’n v. Uber Technologies, Inc., et al., Joint Motion of Chairman Brown and Commissioner Coleman, Docket No. C-2014-2422723 (Apr. 21, 2016).

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