Uber might have a chance at being legalized in Philly under new legislation that even the Philadelphia Parking Authority says it supports.
The taxi app has been operating illegally in Philadelphia for a year. It was famously targeted by the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA), which regulates taxi services, in an undercover sting last October that led to some drivers' vehicles being impounded.
Now a new bill introduced by western Pa. state senator Camera Bartolotta and currently winding its way through the legislative process provides a new framework to regulate Uber and similar services like Lyft within Philadelphia.
Related link: UberX Philly continuing to operate despite PPA attack
PPA executive director Vince Fenerty said he is in favor of Uber being legalized under the bill -- but only if Uber and its drivers has to meet the same standards as the PPA currently enforces for its drivers.
"We have no objection to UberX operating if the bill is amended or changed in committee, which is a normal process, [so] that the PPA would regulate them -- not the PUC (Pennsylvania Utility Commission)," Fenerty said.
"We believe the UberX drivers should have to go through the same training that limo drivers and cab drivers do. Vehicle should be inspected. We should run a criminal background check. ... Uber doesn't believe in that, so there are some differences," he said.
Sources familiar with the bill say it will undergo considerable revision before it makes it way into law, but that Uber doesn't necessarily oppose the PPA overseeing UberX drivers.
Uber partners with 12,000 drivers in Philly have given millions of rides in the last year to 700,000 passengers.
In Philly, Uber offers UberX, in which drivers use their own cars to offer rides, as well as UberBLACK and UberSUV, higher-end options that offer black car sedans and SUVs.
"Sen. Bartolotta’s bill supports much-needed transportation innovation by establishing common sense regulations for ridesharing across the entire Commonwealth, protecting consumer choice and the thousands of jobs Pennsylvanians need," Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said via email.
Bennett declined to comment on Fenerty's statements about what the bill should or should not include.
A petition Uber sent out to its users across Pennsylvania asking them to sign up and show their support for Bartolotta's bill. It currently has 87,000 signatures out of a goal of 90,000.
Regardless of their popular support, Fenerty was clear that he thinks UberX operations need to be better regulated.
"Uber is not a transportation company -- they're an app company," he said. "I have to worry about the safety of people and the safety of cars. ... we're not asking UberX to do any more or any less than a cab or a limo company would have to do."
Fenerty also said Uber still owes massive fines to the PPA -- specifically a $1,000-a-day fine the PPA has levied against Uber since they began operating in Philadelphia. Those fines are still being argued in court.