PUC approves emergency ride-sharing permits

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PITTSBURGH - The state Public Utility Commission has approved emergency permits for two ride-sharing companies that have been operating in the Pittsburgh area.
 
“I appreciate every resident of Pittsburgh that sent an email or letter to this agency because we heard you loud and clear,” said PUC Chairman Robert Powelson.
 
The San Francisco-based firms Lyft and Uber use smartphone apps to dispatch drivers who use their own personal vehicles to give people rides. The drivers then share the fares they collect with the companies.
 
The companies have come under fire over concerns that drivers, their vehicles, and -- especially -- their insurance don't meet regulations for taxi cabs and other similar services. The companies have argued their services are just as safe, but have been targeted because they don't fit neatly into current public transportation regulations.
 
The PUC's five commissioners voted to approve the permits citing the "immediate and substantial" benefit they'd provide to residents who want an alternative to traditional taxicab services.
 
“I don’t know how many times I read emails where the consumers were not pleased with the incumbent taxi cab service,” said Powelson.
 
Under the PUC’s decision, ride sharing companies must meet requirements on driver integrity, vehicle safety and proper insurance.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.