Pennsylvania

Taxi & Limo Drivers Bring Center City Streets to Standstill to Protest UberX, Lyft

Philadelphia taxi and limo drivers angry with ride-sharing services UberX and Lyft cutting into their business took to the streets in Center City Wednesday, leaving dozens of cabs blocking traffic and blaring horns.

The Taxi Workers Alliance and the Philadelphia Limo Association gathered on city streets around 12:30 p.m. to protest ride-sharing claiming that public safety and a lack of taxation are putting the people of Pennsylvania in peril. Some also claimed to be making less money as people turn to the convenience of app-based Lyft and UberX.

UberBlack – Uber's upscale service featuring licensed limousine drivers – joined the taxi drivers in their opposition of the app-based services that features non-professional drivers using personal cars to transport fares. Uber calls UberX a lower-cost alternative to UberBlack.

The protesters -- estimated to be between 500 to 600 -- used a combination of on-foot demonstrations and licensed vehicles to slow traffic along Broad Street between Chestnut and Walnut streets and Market Street between City Hall and 17th Street.

They intended to head to the District Attorney’s Office near City Hall. Police threatened towing unattended cars "endangering public safety," tweeted SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel.

At least one driver was placed in handcuffs but let go after claiming he was directing traffic.

By 1:15 p.m., drivers could be seen returning to their vehicles and clearing the area a short time later. The protest never turned violent.

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State lawmakers have battled over the legality of the ride-sharing services as UberX hit milestones like its 1 millionth ride in Philadelphia.

Uber responded to the concerns of Philly's professional drivers in a statement that put the onus back on the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which is responsible for taxi licensing in the city.

“Many taxi and limousine drivers are understandably frustrated because the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s outdated rules make it harder to earn a living when the public has shown they want more affordable options," said the Uber statement. "Each year, the PPA requires limousine drivers to pay $404 per vehicle for a PPA sticker and $130 for their chauffeur's permit to be renewed. They also subject drivers to obsolete vehicle restrictions and onerous insurance requirements. We believe statewide reform of the PPA that allows for regulated ride-sharing will benefit both riders and drivers."

The PPA didn't delve into numbers in its statement, instead conjuring up the Bill of Rights.

"We are all thankful to live in a free country, where we all are free to assemble and express our views through peaceful protests," said PPA Executive Director Vince Fenerty.

NBC10 also reached out to Lyft for comment.

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