Forget Cabs and Uber: Free SideCar Rides All Weekend [Updated]

For an update to this story, scroll to the bottom.

On Monday, we broke the news that the Philadelphia Parking Authority shut down new “ride-sharing” service SideCar over the weekend in a sting operation, with PPA spokesperson Marty O’Rourke telling us that the San Francisco-based company was operating here “illegally.”

Nonsense, claimed SideCar CEO Sunil Paul, who said in response that Philadelphia’s “defenders of the status quo aren’t quite on board yet” with his “progressive” service, which landed $10 million in venture capital last year, including a wad of Google Ventures cash.

SideCar said that the company wouldn’t cave to the PPA and that it was still operational here, although with service only available on weekends during its introductory period in Philadelphia, it would be five days before we could find out if their threats of defiance were real or just chest-thumping.

Well, here it is Friday, and we have our answer. Sort of.

This morning, a SideCar attorney met with the PPA, which has jurisdiction over all cabs and limos, to plead the company’s case. The result, says two PPA sources: SideCar intends to operate in Philadelphia this weekend without collecting fares or, as the company puts it, “suggested donations.” According to PPA spokesperson O’Rourke, “They’ve agreed to remove any requirement to use a credit card or charge for any form of compensation. And they’ve agreed to promote their service as a free service on their website.”

Of course, you can tip the drivers, right? Nope, says O’Rourke. “A tip is something that you give for a service,” he explains. “We consider a tip a fare. And we’ll be monitoring the situation tonight to make sure SideCar is in compliance with the law, and if they are not, cars will be impounded.”

A SideCar spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for information, although CEO Paul has started a petition demanding that the PPA support “ride-sharing” here.

So do you want a free SideCar ride in Philadelphia this weekend? Download the SideCar app here. And remember, no tipping!

Update 3/1/2013 8:15 p.m.: After an early dinner, I just took a SideCar from Center City to Overbrook, which normally costs about $20 in a cab, plus tip. The SideCar showed up within 5 minutes of my request, and there was no fare or “suggested donation”. The app actually explained that this was a “free ride.” My friendly driver explained that he was being paid $15-per-hour by SideCar and added, “The PPA just wants to get paid.” So enjoy the free rides while you can.