Councilman Jim Kenney, reportedly thinking about a run for mayor, may be positioning himself as the city’s libertarian superhero.
Just weeks after his bill decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana got the approval of both the City Council and Mayor Nutter, Kenney has introduced a resolution calling for the Council to consider approving ride-sharing services like Uber, UberX, Lyft, and Sidecar for operation in Philadelphia.
State legislators are considering bills to legalize those services — and also considering whether Philadelphia, with its own extensive taxi service already operating, should be exempted from that authorization.
Kenney introduced a resolution Thursday authorizing City Council’s Transportation and Public Utilities Committee to explore the state bills under consideration, which references Pittsburgh’s recent success in persuading state Public Utility Commission regulators to approve an emergency application for TNCs to operate in the city, and notes Mayor Bill Peduto’s status as a “known and enthusiastic TNC rider.”
While the proposal appears to be relatively uncontroversial among state Democrats though, there is a live debate among ideological activists within the Democratic Party over whether so-called “sharing economy” businesses are sympatico with the party’s values. AirBnB has so far failed to win legal approval to operate in Philly, for example, which could be an indication of the Council majority’s views on the subject.
It’s been tough for ride-sharing to get regulatory traction in Pennsylvania. As Victor Fiorillo reported in June: “UberX operates in Philadelphia’s suburbs but not within the city itself due to PPA regulations. The PPA jettisoned SideCar, a service similar to UberX, from Philadelphia in 2013.” The arrival of such largely unregulated “sharing economy” services has received the applause of libertarian-minded political activists.