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November 7 2016

Uber is Back on the Road in Philly

Patrice L. Onwuka

Just in time for the opening of the polls tomorrow, Philadelphia residents can get a ride to go vote courtesy of Uber and Lyft, which are back on the roads.

Late last week, Republican Governor Tom Wolf made it legal for ride-sharing companies to operate across Pennsylvania, especially Philadelphia which had been a battle ground. He signed into law a bipartisan Senate bill which creates a regulatory frameworkwithin which ride-sharing companies will operate.

In rolling out the formal welcome mat for the tech platforms to operate, he noted:

“We want these companies welcome here in the Commonwealth, allowing them to become full partners with the cities and communities where they operate and invest, including Pittsburgh where Uber has headquartered its advanced robotics research. This bill also protects consumers with background checks and thorough vetting for drivers, making sure we are doing all we can to keep riders safe and secure.”

The legislation also maintains a 1.4-percent tax on the revenue ride-sharing companies collect in fares that originate in Philadelphia. Two-thirds of this will go to the Philly public school system’s piggy bank – projected to be over $2 million annually - and the other third to fund a transportation regulatory agency. This is a continuation from the previous agreement between Uber and Philadelphia. Ride-sharing benefits business as it does local kids one of the bill sponsors explains:

“The governor’s signature cements the benefits of this long-term solution into place. Ride-sharing businesses will continue to be able to prosper and grow, and students in the Philadelphia School District will reap the benefits from a new funding source," said Representative [Maria] Donatucci. "In every sense of the words, this new law is a compromise and a win-win. I’m happy to have been able to participate in this process."

The bill takes effect immediately. Uber and Lyft are excited as can be about being back on the road in Philly. The taxi cabs, which have fought against Uber and Lyft tooth-and-nail along with some progressive lawmakers, are not pleased.

We hope this fight is now over, because it’s been quite a soap opera. These companies had been operating in a gray area for some time with no state-wide regulations.

Previously, Philadelphia had granted the ridesharing companies a brief injunction to allow them to move people around the city during the Democratic national convention in August, but that expired. Then in October, a judge ordered Uber, Lyft and any other ride-sharing company operating in Pennsylvania off the roads. That put a lot of female drivers out of work temporarily as well as left weekend party goers in the city without affordable and safe alternatives to taxicabs to get them home.

Innovation and technology will continue to evolve providing us with new ways to live, work, travel, shop, and even raise our families. The role of government should not be to side with established companies in industries being disrupted, but to remove the barriers so that all can compete fairly. Smart, common-sense approaches by government is what’s needed and at least we see that on display in Pennsylvania.

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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