February 11, 2016
Protesters shut down traffic in front of City Hall on Broad Street on Thursday afternoon demanding that the city reevaluate requirements for drivers at services like UberX and Lyft in order to operate in the city.
Drivers having issues with the app-based transportation networks are nothing new, with a similar protest shutting down Center City traffic in December and drivers filing a civil suit against Uber last month alleging that Uber wasn't paying UberBlack drivers.
On Thursday, hundreds of cab drivers and UberBlack drivers parked in the middle of Broad Street, stifling traffic in the area.
Those who drive cabs and for UberBlack say they face more regulations than the part-time drivers in other ride-sharing programs, and that the rise of these new services is hitting them hard in the wallet.
One driver, who asked to remain anonymous – in fact, when a reporter asked for identification from some at the protest, others shouted "no names, no names" – pointed out that competition from ride-sharing has reduced his pay to less than $3 an hour most nights.
"I'm a father of three children. How am I to feed my family?" he asked. "We say, either regulate it (UberX and Lyft) or just stop it."
Ali Razak, of the Philadelphia Limousine Association, said that UberX and Lyft drivers are allowed to operate with impunity, while restrictions on taxis and UberBlack drivers – notably insurance costs and registration fees – make operating in the city much more costly for UberBlack and taxi cab operators.
"They are drivers under no one," Razak said.
In a statement released to the press, Uber said that UberX is regulated by the Pennsylvania Utility Commission in every county in Pennsylvania, except for Philadelphia, because of pushback from taxi drivers.
"The taxi industry worked in concert with lobbyists to keep these rules from extending to Philadelphia," said the statement, noting it has been reported that taxi drivers worked with the Philadelphia Parking Authority to make operating in the city difficult for Uber's part-time drivers.
During the protest, drivers shouted toward City Hall, demanding that Mayor Jim Kenney appear and address the crowd. Instead, Brian Abernathy, first deputy managing director for Philadelphia, met the protesters and promised that within the next few days, city officials would convene a meeting to discuss how to fix some of the drivers' concerns.
After discussing the situation with Abernathy, Razak climbed to the roof of a cab, grabbed a megaphone and told drivers that the protest was over for the day, and they would return if the upcoming meeting didn't address their concerns.
"We got what we wanted!" he shouted to a round of applause.