Judge Rules Uber Is Still Illegal In Philadelphia, Despite Temporary Truce

Image courtesy of RW Sinclair

In response to a petition from taxi drivers, advocates for disabled riders — and even some Uber Black drivers — a Philadelphia judge has said that Uber’s UberX car service is operating illegally in the city, regardless of a deal reached last week to allow UberX to temporarily operate in Philly without threat of legal action.

For the last couple of years, Uber’s UberX car service has been operating in Philadelphia without the authority of the city’s Parking Authority, which regulates taxis within city limits.

However, with many of the city’s regional rail cars recently taken out of commission because of potentially dangerous defects — and with the Democratic National Convention coming to town later this month — Uber and Philly reached an agreement last week to effectively legalize UberX for the remainder of the summer.

In a one-page order issued late Tuesday, a city judge noted that the current legal position on UberX’s status will remain unchanged for now — meaning that the service is still against the law in the city — pending the outcome of a July 22 hearing.

“Right now, the regulations are that UberX is illegal in Philadelphia, until the commonwealth of Pennsylvania changes that,” said the judge, according to Metro.

However, regardless of the judge’s ruling in the matter, the deal between the PPA and Uber will likely be unaffected. Since announcing the truce, the PPA has clarified that UberX’s legal status in the city is not changed. Instead, the agency will not take any enforcement actions against the company and UberX drivers for operating in Philly during the 90-day timeframe.

The judge’s order was in response to a petition filed by the Fair Ride Philly Coalition, a group made of taxi drivers, advocates for disabled riders, and drivers for Uber’s Uber Black service. Unlike UberX, Uber Black is authorized to operate in the city, as Uber Black drivers must be licensed through the Parking Authority.

Taxi drivers are obviously concerned because they feel they are being squeezed out of the market by Uber cars that aren’t held to the same licensing requirements and costs.

Disabled riders are worried about the growth of UberX because of an apparent lack of vehicles equipped to carry passengers with accessibility issues.

The coalition has painted the deal between Uber and the PPA as a backroom arrangement made to legalize UberX without addressing these concerns.

The Uber Black drivers who are part of the group argue that the temporary deal was not needed to address the concerns of the disruption to regional rail service or the impending DNC.

Most of the regional rail riders affected by the train car shortage are coming from outside the city limits, where the Parking Authority has no control over Uber, say the drivers, who contend that there are already plenty of available taxis and licensed car services to handle things.

There is also the lingering question of why the temporary deal only includes Uber, and not competing services like Lyft.

For its part, Uber maintains that the judge’s order “does not invalidate our agreement with the PPA in any way… We look forward to serving Philadelphia during the DNC and throughout the summer.”