August 28, 2014

Sen. Fontana Supports Ride-Share Companies At PUC Hearing

Urging the Public Utility Commission to grant ride-share companies Uber and Lyft permanent operating licenses, Sen. Wayne D. Fontana (D-Allegheny) Thursday testified that the businesses provide citizens more transportation options, access and flexibility.
“Ride-share is an exciting transportation alternative that will revolutionize Pennsylvania’s transportation industry for years to come,” Sen. Fontana said in testimony before the PUC.
“To me, new business models such as ride-share make good use of cutting edge technology to help bridge some of the gaps, shortfalls and shortcomings in Pennsylvania’s public transportation network. It’s not fair or sensible to limit or ban these new alternatives from reaching their potential in our state.”
In July, Sen. Fontana introduced legislation-- Senate Bill 1457-- that would legalize, regulate and mandate that these new transportation network companies operate safely in Pennsylvania.
For example, the bill would require ride-share companies to establish driver training programs, have a zero tolerance alcohol and drug use policy, have adequate liability insurance coverage, implement a thorough background check system and maintain detailed records.
Sen. Fontana’s bill would also mandate that ride-share drivers have an updated photo in plain view; and ban drivers from picking up passengers who attempt to “hail” the vehicle while in use.
Senate Bill 1457 is currently under consideration in the Senate Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure.
“As new transportation options and alternatives continue to make their way to Pennsylvania, I am hopeful my legislation can serve as a model for encouraging growth, while seeing to it that public safety remains the top priority,” Sen. Fontana testified. “Hopefully, the full Senate will act on Senate Bill 1457 when it reconvenes in September. The sooner we can enact the necessary safeguards and oversight, the better it will be for companies that offer ride-share services – as well as for people who rely on this new transportation option.”
The PUC is holding the hearings over Uber and Lyft’s request for a permanent license to operate in Allegheny County. Citing a no legal authority to operate under Pennsylvania law, the PUC ordered Uber and Lyft to cease and desist operations in June. At Fontana’s urging, the PUC earlier this month granted the companies emergency temporary authority to operate in Allegheny County for 60 days.
Uber and Lyft, and other ride-sharing service companies, use a software platform that enables riders to connect with drivers using smartphone technology.  The driver and rider connect and a fee is charged for the transportation.
PUC Grapples With Brave New Transportation World