by: Brian Bowling, TribLIVE Updated:PITTSBURGH —
Two administrative law judges Tuesday ordered two smartphone app-based ride-sharing services to halt their operations in Pennsylvania until they get properly licensed.
Judges Mary Long and Jeffrey Watson granted the Public Utility Commission's emergency orders against Uber and Lyft while the agency pursues administrative actions against them.
“Although the digital platform used to connect passengers with transportation is new and innovative, the proscription against using private for vehicles for transportation without commission authority is hardly new,” the judges said.
They then drew upon a 1930 situation in Pittsburgh when striking cab drivers used personal vehicles to offer transportation. While they said they wouldn't charge fares, they also made it clear that no “contributions” were refused, the judges wrote.
Lyft made a similar argument in seeking to avoid the order, claiming that it merely accepts donations rather than charging fares for rides. Uber took a different tack, claiming it was simply a software company providing a smartphone app.
Motor Carrier Enforcement Manager Charles Bowser testified at a hearing on Thursday that he downloaded apps from both companies, who required him to give them a credit card number, and that they charged him for each ride he arranged through their respective apps.
The PUC contends that both companies are operating as unlicensed transportation brokers in the state and are using non-certified drivers to provide their services.