The Philadelphia Parking Authority and Uber — which have sparred since October 2014 when some of the city's first UberX drivers had their cars impounded by Authority officers — seem to have finally smoked a peace pipe.
Vince Fenerty, executive director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA), and Uber general manager Jon Feldman announced Thursday that UberX and UberPool services will be made legal for the next 90 days.
The decision was motivated by serious delays on SEPTA's Regional Rail caused by the discovery last week of a structural flaw in nearly a third of their traincars.
"The current SEPTA car disruption, coupled with the coming Democrat National Convention ... and the public's ongoing demand for more convenient and affordable transportation options has brought the PPA and Uber together," Fenerty said at a press conference Thursday. "We want to alleviate some of the commuter disruption caused by SEPTA's rail problems."
Uber is already offering a 40 percent discount to suburban riders who use its service to travel to and from certain SEPTA stations, and according to the Inquirer, UberPool has seen a 26 percent increase in use this week compared to last week.
As part of the truce, Uber agreed to pay a $350,000 settlement to settle all legal disputes surrounding the operation of UberX and UberPool.
That payment will be exchanged after the signing of a law that will legalize Uber in Philadelphia, as well as the similar app Lyft, to which the PPA truce does not apply. Lawmakers tabled that bill before the summer session and it is not expected to pass until fall.
Some accused the PPA of acting as if that unsigned law was already on the books.
"PPA has no right to make their own rules and laws... How dare they?," asked Ali Razak, head of the Phila Limo Association, which represents more than 500 UberBlack drivers like him. "There is a bill, it will pass some day, so they act like it is law already? That is what the PPA has done today. ... You can't just do that. This is open discrimination."
Taxi medallion owners, drivers and Uber Black drivers have staged numerous protests around Philadelphia over the operations of UberX and Lyft, which they say has decimated their business. Some drivers have threatened to boycott the DNC and refuse to provide rides if the city does not shut down UberX and Lyft.
Uber Black drivers, who paid large fees to get PPA approval to drive in Philly, are still paying large fees and taxes, Razak said. His group will be pursuing legal actions against the PPA in the days to come, he vowed.
What the PPA's announcement does is formally legalize the operations of UberX that have already been going on illegally for about 20 months, as well as UberPool, which started in February.
"What does change now is Uber can attract more drivers and more cars, the people who may want to come into Philadelphia and have the fear of impoundment will not have that fear again until Sept. 30," Fenerty said.
Fenerty said the current agreement was hashed out after building "trust" between the PPA and Uber.
He said Uber could operate through September "as a semi-legalized company," but backed down from those words a moment later, saying, "We're not semi-legalizing it. We're basically going to stand down for a three-month period from enforcement action."