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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

PUC planning crackdown of ride-share services Lyft, Uber

Posted By on Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 4:52 PM

lyft.jpg
  • Coming to a city tow pound near you?

Be advised, fledgling Pittsburgh Lyft and UberX drivers: The state's Public Utilities Commission says it is working up a plan to cite you.

This afternoon, PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher told our intrepid freelance reporter Dan Sleva that the agency hasn’t "cited anyone yet, but we do have a plan in the works." Kocher says the first citation for "operating without the certificate of public convenience" will be a summary offense; a second citation would be a misdemeanor.

The news shouldn't be a surprise to those who've followed previous coverage of the newly-launched rideshare programs. When Sleva first reported last week on the companies' plans for Pittsburgh, the PUC made clear it would take action if the services began operating locally.

Lyft launched here last Friday, and in the past 24 hours UberX also announced its own local launch. The company's start began with this tweet on Tuesday: from @Uber_Pitt "Pittsburgh, UBER Has Arrived! Open up your apps, cause we're live in the Burgh'"

As Sleva reported last week, when the ridesharing firm Sidecar opened in Philadelphia last year, drivers were charged with operating unauthorized taxis, and their cars were impounded. Sleva asked Lyft spokesperson Erin Simpson about what the company would do if the same thing happened to its drivers in Pittsburgh.

"We plan to support them," Simpson said. "We stand behind our drivers."

"We plan to make our case like we did with the California PUC," Simpson added. "We showed we have a strict background check and higher liability insurance than the law requires. They [CPUC] created a new category for us."

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