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July 25 2016

Just in Time for DNC Circus Uber, Lyft Get Philly’s Nod of Approval

Patrice L. Onwuka

Late last week, while final preparations were underway in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention (DNC), one major deal was completed that frees locals and out-of-towners to get around the city more easily. Ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft temporarily got a nod of approval from the city to operate, although not without some financial strings attached.

From now until the end of September Uber and Lyft drivers can pick up and drop off customers in Philadelphia thanks to a new measure passed by the legislature and signed into law by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, who noted in a statement:

“I have supported the legalization of ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania, and I believe we should be finding ways to help these companies grow across the commonwealth.”

This move is expected to alleviate pressure on the city’s crowded streets while the circus of DNC antics comes rolling through this week. There is a public transit option, but the system has struggled with delays and crowded commuter rail service. It didn’t help when dozens of train cars were halted by a crack in their suspension systems recently. Ridesharing is a welcome alternative to passengers.

With this 90-day deal, ridesharing companies are permitted to operate and for Uber that means the popular UberX option and UberPOOL group rides option. The deal does come with strings attached though. Ridesharing companies must pony up 1 percent of their gross receipts from fares that originate in Philly to the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA), the city’s transportation regulator. The money would be split with two-thirds going to the school district and the PPA keeping the rest.

The PPA is just a crony public agency that plays one side against the other to its benefit. One news agency reported that PPA had conspired with taxi companies to keep ridesharing companies operating illegally prompting Uber to call it untrustworthy and urging the legislature take up the issue of ridesharing, which they did.

Ridesharing companies have been permitted to operate in the state to the chagrin of taxicab companies. They tried to throw a wrench in the deal with a lawsuit that was halted – at least for the time being:

Judge Linda Carpenter said the deal might be flawed, but she can't rule on it until after the 90-day reprieve. A new hearing was set for October 6. At the same time, taxi drivers who had previously threatened to strike during the DNC said they would stay behind the wheel.

Opponents of Uber who say the company operates in the shadow of the law in Philadelphia were heartened by some of Carpenter's comments.

Philadelphia is just one of many cities grappling with the choice and opportunity that technology spurs in the form of the sharing economy. Stuck in their outdated model of how the economy and workforce should work, established businesses and industries such as the taxicab commissions lobby elected officials to change the rules to keep out new companies, not because of safety or public health, but because they fear competition.

Despite the help that DNC attendees will get from cheaper rides around town, many progressives push for the kinds of regulations that limit and/or halt the sharing economy. The Democratic platform feigns an appreciation for the opportunity that innovation brings:

We must harness these forces so that they create higher-paying jobs across the country, bring more people into the workforce, and reduce inequality… 

Democrats believe we must harness the promise of technological innovation to promote community participation and enhance opportunities to achieve greater economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities. We will encourage technology transfer, entrepreneurship, and small business creation throughout the country and in all types of innovation sectors.  

Yet, in practice they want to regulate ridesharing and the sharing economy out of existence.Hillary Clinton has called for us to “crack down” on the gig economy if it doesn’t conform to the old model of the workplace. Ride sharing is not a good job to Clinton, but just a gig. This expose how out of touch she and many of her colleagues are. Yet, they must be a part of the 44 percent of U.S. adults who say they’ve participated in it.

Let’s see if the convention goers notice the absence of real opportunity for ridesharing in their party’s platform while sitting in the back of the Uber taking them around town.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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