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PUC OKs Conditional License for Lyft

The Public Utility Commission has approved with conditions the application by Lyft to offer ridesharing services statewide for two years.

“Those conditions mainly address the concerns the commission has been expressing all along that these companies are proving that they are using safe drivers and they are doing background checks on drivers, that the vehicles they are operating are safe, and that they have the proper insurance,” said PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher.

These are the same conditions that the commission imposed on Uber on Nov. 13 when granting that ridesharing company a conditional license.

Kocher said Lyft has 30 days to meet the commission’s conditions. 

“It’s 30 calendar days, and if they fail to come into compliance with those conditions, they will not receive their experimental license and the emergency authority to operate for the Pittsburgh area (Allegheny County) will be revoked,” she said.

The PUC voted 4-1, with Commissioner John Coleman dissenting.

“I am concerned that the safety of drivers, passengers and other members of the public will be unnecessarily compromised under the applicant’s current business model,” Coleman said in a statement. 

Kocher said consumer need is an important consideration. 

“Is there a need for the service? That is one of the things we look at, that and the changing atmosphere and regulatory atmosphere of technology and those kinds of things and where all of those fit in," she said. "Those are all aspects we put into our decisions.”

Lyft cannot operate in Philadelphia because the PUC does not have jurisdiction over transportation services there. The Philadelphia Parking Authority oversees tax and limo services in that city.

According to Kocher, Lyft and Uber are not eligible for a full license because “they don’t fit into the categories that current exist in Pennsylvania law” for traditional taxi or limousine service.

“ That is why the commission is so supportive of the legislature taking this matter up and passes something that creates a separate category for transportation network companies and makes it a cleaner approval process and permanent licensing,” she said.

State Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) introduced legislation this fall to create a “transportation network company” category (ridesharing), as well as driver-training programs and a zero-tolerance alcohol policy for drivers. The legislation would also require specific levels of insurance coverage and vehicle inspections.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
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