The battle over Pittsburgh’s app-based ride-sharing services got a little more crowded on Wednesday when officials disclosed that Yellow Cab Co. applied to run a service similar to those that Lyft and Uber offer.
Yellow Cab filed documents with the Public Utility Commission last month seeking approval to run a service in which people drive their own cars and pick up customers based on real-time requests sent through a smartphone app.
Yellow Cab president Jamie Campolongo, who has criticized Lyft and Uber, said the service would be available at busy times, such as Friday and Saturday nights, and when large conventions are in town.
“There’s a difference. We’re not critical of competition. I don’t care if Lyft and Uber operate. They just need to follow the rules of the PUC and be responsible,” Campolongo said. “Did we take a page out of their book? Sure we did, but they pirated our industry. We’ll step into their shoes and do it right.”
Campolongo said it won’t “deteriorate” traditional taxi service because the personal drivers wouldn’t be used during periods of low demand. He said drivers would carry commercial insurance.
Campolongo said Lyft and Uber operate without PUC approval. Records show Lyft sought approval last month. The application is pending.
“They’ve applied for experimental service,” PUC Commissioner Pamela Witmer said during a meeting on Wednesday with Tribune-Review reporters and editors. “Our biggest concern is making sure we have safe modes of transportation.”
Witmer is in Pittsburgh to testify at a state House committee hearing set for Thursday about volatile utility bills during this winter’s cold snap. The commission last week issued rules for electricity suppliers that offer variable rate plans.
PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said applications from Yellow Cab and Lyft could take months to process if someone challenged the permit. Uber has not applied for a permit with the PUC, she said.
Spokespeople for Lyft and Uber said the companies want to deliver safe, reliable transportation options to Pittsburghers.
Uber and Lyft have operated in a regulatory gray area since rolling into Pittsburgh in February. Witmer said the PUC, which regulates traditional taxi services, has looked to other states for guidance as they consider potential changes.
Lyft, known for pink moustaches that adorn front bumpers of cars, announced last week that it expanded its Pittsburgh operations out of the core city to encompass Pittsburgh International Airport and western suburbs.
Mayor Bill Peduto has expressed support for the companies, saying they provide much-needed competition.
Bobby Kerlik is a Trib Total Media staff writer.
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