Uber Launches UberX In Philadelphia, But PPA Says “Not So Fast”

“We will impound the vehicle,” says a Philadelphia Parking Authority source.

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UPDATE 10/26 1:50 p.m.: The Philadelphia Parking Authority has impounded UberX vehicles through an undercover sting operation. For the full report, go here.

ORIGINAL:

On Friday afternoon, the scads of Uber customers in the Philadelphia area received an email announcing the arrival of UberX, the company’s lower-cost alternative, within city limits. The company explained that it had decided to thrust UberX upon the city due to a convoluted situation that may have left hundreds of Philadelphia taxicabs without the insurance they need to operate.

Here’s what Uber wrote in the email blast:

This week, the largest taxi insurer in Pennsylvania went bankrupt, which means that as of 5:00pm today, there is no guarantee that your taxi ride will be insured. To make sure that you can get safe and affordable rides around Philadelphia this weekend, we have decided to launch uberX.

What is uberX? uberX is our low-cost option, with prices at least 20% cheaper than a taxi. uberX driver partners have mid-range or hybrid vehicles with seating for up to four passengers. Every uberX driver partner is backed by our $1M insurance policy, 28x more than required for Philly taxis, and must pass comprehensive county, federal, and multi-state background checks that go back seven years, which are more stringent than what is required for taxis.

With your help, we hope to find a permanent home for ridesharing in Philly, just like in 110 other cities across the country.

The message went on to explain that UberX would be free all weekend — up to three trips at a maximum of $20 each.

It’s important to understand the distinction between Uber and UberX. Uber is a luxury-car-service app, matching black sedans and SUVs piloted by licensed limousine drivers. It’s a premium service that can cost significantly more than a taxicab, especially when its controversial “surge pricing” is in effect. (In theory, a three-block ride could set you back $75.)

UberX, on the other hand, dispatches normal people in their own cars to pick you up. If your Uncle Freddie needs a little extra cash, he can get a job with UberX, driving his Honda Civic around to pick people up. The UberX service costs less than a cab.

Uber has operated its black-car service within Philadelphia proper since June 2012, and UberX has been available in the suburbs for some time. But, until now, UberX hasn’t been an option for Philadelphians because, as far as the Philadelphia Parking Authority is concerned, it’s illegal.

The PPA has authority over all taxis and limousines that pick up customers within the city. There are rules governing those vehicles, and the PPA enforces them. They even conduct sting operations to catch drivers who overcharge customers or refuse to take credit cards. (Yes, sting operations!)

In February 2013, the PPA’s Taxi & Limousine Enforcement Division conducted one such sting operation against Google-backed car service app SideCar, which is essentially the same as UberX. And after that investigation, the PPA kicked SideCar out of the city.

SideCar argued that the PPA’s authority didn’t apply to them, because they weren’t offering a taxi or limousine ride. It was, they explained, “ridesharing,” the idea that you’re basically just sharing a ride and throwing a guy a few bucks. But the PPA quickly called B.S. on that claim using the logic: If you are taking someone from point A to point B and there is money changing hands in one way or another, you are under the PPA’s jurisdiction.

“They can’t do this,” a PPA source told me then. “They have absolutely no authority to operate here. They have nothing.”

And apparently the same goes for UberX.

A PPA investigator I spoke with after the UberX announcement on Friday told me that UberX is just as illegal as SideCar was.

I asked him if the PPA would be conducting undercover sting operations against UberX this weekend.

“What do you think?” he said. “If we find a civilian car operating as an UberX, we will take the vehicle off the streets. We will impound the vehicle.”

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  • barrygster

    In DC you can hail a licensed, metered, yellow cab via Uber. If the PPA allowed that here the complaints would vanish and we wouldn’t care about UberX.

    • http://philadelphia.foobooz.com/ Art from Foobooz

      The first cab company that figures this out will own all the cab companies in no time.

  • Tommy Grover

    If these uber hipsters would just stop spending all their money on expensive clothes to mimic Salvation Army finds and shopped in actual SA’s, they could afford cabs like the rest of us.

  • Presbyton

    Like it or not, what UberX is doing IS illegal.

    • Sunny

      Times are changing get used it

      • Unten

        Wasn’t that the Pets.Com motto?

  • Joseph W. Egan

    Tyrants gotta tyrannize.

  • kp

    I love uber and have used it all around the country. Last night I sat in a vehicle that was immediately ticketed by the police. I don’t understand why Philadelphians are so afraid of uberx. Get rid of your your typewriters and get an iPhone… Times are changing and something better is here. Embrace it.

    • Casey Evans

      Exactly… here in Seattle, Lyft and Uber are everywhere and have become ubiquitous with daily life. If I travel to Philadelphia, I see no reason to change my behavior or my preference for ride sharing.

  • Mike

    I’d pay more for uber-x than a taxi. Clean courteous drivers who are rated by the passenger after every ride. Payment is automatic and the route is emailed. It’s much better than a dirty cab with the driver constantly talking on the cell phone and yelling at you for paying with credit card.

  • The Real Richard Cranium

    Don’t be fooled by the PPA. The Uber Drivers are required to provide proof of their Driver License, Car Insurance, and Registration all at the time of application. Once that is complete, a 10 year Driving History is pulled from the State. A State and Federal Background check is completed. It has taken drivers up to 6 weeks to get on boarded.

    You order Uber and you get someone that will be there quickly (no need to fight to hail a cab)or wait forever for one to show up. You get a car that hasn’t been on the road for 200-300k miles plus unknown number of accidents. You get a clean smelling driver that speaks English and doesn’t talk on their phones. The drivers take your safety as paramount. Besides their own policies, Uber provides 1 million in coverage as soon as you get in the car, which is clean and might have candy and water.

    No fighting about using a Credit Card or looking for a tip.

    • The Real Richard Cranium

      Think about it like this….DUI will set you back thousands in fines/costs, if you drive yourself tonight. A cab will cost $20. An Uber Ride will be free! Score!

    • Melissa Novella

      Omg… They need a drivers license, isn’t that against the regime’s agenda and racist?

    • Unten

      Google: “Uber Driver Convicted of Assault of Passenger had done Prison Time, Passed Background Check”

  • PPA stinks

    Philly cab vs UberX…it’s like being inside a prostitute at K&A vs a Victoria Secret’s model.

  • Diane

    I have used Uber X in other cities and have NOT had favorable experiences. While the drivers were courteous, they were not knowledgable about the city at all. As a result, they always got lost and the ride cost more than it needed to. I always had to give them directions. The cars were not always clean. Some of the cars had cigarette smells, trash in the front and back, stained or dusty interiors. Philadelphia has had an “Uber X-like” service for years. It’s called a hack. Uber X is just that; a glorified hack service.

  • John Q Public

    Vinny Fenerty likes pink panties…pass it down

  • Philip

    It’s pathetic that we always allow people to create barriers to protect their own interests. Oh well, whether big business or unions, continue on.

  • Paolo De di
  • John Familiare

    “If we find a civilian car operating as an UberX, we will take the vehicle off the streets. We will impound the vehicle.”
    Read more at http://www.phillymag.com/news/2014/10/25/uber-launches-uberx-philadelphia/#HIjChP6uQhJXBoj1.99

  • Ashley Miller

    Friends! http://www.lyftvsuber.com/ compares the two most popular ride-sharing services. $30 of FREE ride credit for new passengers and up to a $250 sign-up BONUS for new drivers!! Drivers can make as much as $40/hr! Hope you can see what all the hype is about :) Thanks!!!!!!

  • Tamara Lewis

    Glad to know that this article pointed out the distinction among “Uber” and “uberX”. People really tend to get confused at names everytime. If there are no taxi cars, then perhaps the idea of uber is amazing. Or they could try out some limo services like that of http://bit.ly/1rPEEjq so that their travel will be secured and safe.