Uber Helping PPA Bust UberX Drivers

Philadelphia Parking Authority inspectors are having a good laugh.

An UberX car getting impounded by the PPA.

An UberX car getting impounded by the PPA. Photo | Courtesy of the PPA

Two weeks ago, UberX drivers in the Philadelphia area received an email from Uber HQ telling them that if they wanted to remain Uber “partners,” they needed to comply with some new requirements. First, they would have to get a special PennDOT safety inspection. And second, they would need to display an Uber decal on their car.

Uber’s new requirements for drivers stem from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s recent decision to grant the company an experimental two-year license to operate the low-cost UberX “ridesharing” service in the state, effectively legalizing UberX in Pennsylvania. The company had previously had some run-ins with authorities in the state, including a cease-and-desist order for Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County. The PUC’s jurisdiction includes taxicabs, in addition to public utilities like gas and electric.

“Let me put it in plain English, Uber,” a PUC representative warned in November when the group handed down its decision. “This is your last chance with this commission.” He criticized Uber for its “anarchist” business practices and suggested that the company become a “responsible, lawful corporate citizen.”

The problem with all of this is that the PUC decision doesn’t mean squat in Philadelphia. The PUC makes the rules for cab services in all of Pennsylvania except for Philadelphia, where the Philadelphia Parking Authority is lord over the cabs.

And the PPA has made it quite clear that UberX is illegal in Philadelphia and that it will continue to impound UberX vehicles that it catches doing business inside city limits. So naturally, the PPA is pretty happy that the previously unmarked UberX vehicles will now have an Uber decal on them. They might as well just drive to the PPA impound lot in South Philadelphia and hand over their cars.

To date, the PPA has impounded 35 UberX vehicles in Philadelphia, and Uber has been covering the $1,000 fee that the PPA requires to release each car from impound. The one seen here bearing the Uber decal was impounded last week.

“I love it that they are nuts enough to do this,” a PPA inspector told me, laughing, adding that while the more expensive Uber Black service is perfectly legit in Philadelphia, UberX remains “totally illegal.”

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