UberPool launches, taxi drivers continue protest
Taxi and limo drivers will stage another protest against unregulated app-based ride-share companies on Thursday at City Hall, just one day before Uber launches its latest carpooling model.
UberPool will become available in Philadelphia at noon on Friday, February 12. The feature will allow two or more riders to share a trip to a common destination. In other cities like Los Angeles, UberPool comprises about 30 percent of Uber's total trips.
Thursday's scheduled protest isn't just about UberPool, though. It's part of on an ongoing feud between two highly invested camps. Late last year, hundreds of taxi and limo drivers used their vehicles to shut down traffic in Center City for several hours. The unregulated ride-share services UberX and Lyft had crushed their business, drivers said, asking District Attorney Seth Williams to take legal action.
It's been a long battle.
Philadelphia is the only municipality in the state that has not licensed UberX and Lyft for operation. In December 2014, some 45 medallion taxi companies, which are licensed and regulated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA), slapped Uber with a federal lawsuit. In 2015, the PPA sought $300 million in fines from the multi-billion-dollar San Francisco-based company.
And in recent days, tensions have escalated again between the city's medallion taxi companies and the insurgent ride-sharing companies. Two weeks ago, The Daily News obtained emails with evidence that the PPA had teamed with the taxi industry that it regulates. Their alleged goal? To ensure that ride-sharing services stay illegal in Philadelphia.
In one 2014 email exchange, PPA general counsel Dennis Weldon suggested ways in which a medallion taxi company could lobby for their cause with the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
"...word is that the House is more resistant to a Philly carve out," Weldon wrote to Everett Abitbol, co-founder of Freedom Taxi. "I think this is an area where your lobbyist can bring some real world info to the members as to the impact this bill will have on the legally operating medallion business. Just my $.02, your lobbyist may see a different path."
At least one medallion taxi driver has participated in an undercover sting with PPA agents against UberX drivers, according to the Daily News. Uber has since called the PPA "a broken system."
The demonstration will take place on Thursday, February 11, at 12:00 p.m. outside of City Hall.
It remains unclear Monday if the demonstration will affect traffic in Center City.