Uber Looking to Expand to State College
The fast-growing and tepidly controversial ride-sharing company Uber is apparently looking to expand its services to State College. The company is petitioning the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to grant Uber a statewide permit, and it mentions State College as one of the potential cities for expansion.
“[Last month], the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) will decide whether to grant a license for ridesharing statewide, which would allow Uber to extend beyond just Pittsburgh and Philadelphia,” the petition reads. “If granted, this license will mark an important step toward addressing a pressing need for safe, affordable, and reliable rides in areas like Harrisburg, State College, Reading, the Lehigh Valley, Gettysburg, Erie… and everywhere in between.”
State College is also now listed among the cities on Uber’s website where drivers can sign up.
Uber has made waves in urban communities for providing a transparent alternative to taxis in 170 cities. Riders use a phone app to book rides through a network of drivers who have individual ratings. The app tracks the car as it makes its way to your destination, and provides an upfront fare estimate based on surge pricing, which adjusts the price based on time of day and number of cars on the road to reach market equilibrium. Payment is handled entirely through the app and automatically charged to the customer’s credit card for even more convenience.
What makes Uber controversial — and the potential legal roadblock for bringing the company to smaller communities like State College — is that it doesn’t operate on the standard taxi medallion system, which limits the number of cabbies in each city. This has traditional cab companies pissed off — they would likely call Uber an illegal unlicensed taxicab service, while Uber has called the taxi system a cartel. Uber hired former Barack Obama campaign manager and White House adviser David Plouffe to lead its national lobby to help convince local and state governments to allow Uber into more communities.
Uber currently operates under city ordinances in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, where the company claims DUI rates have seen a steady decline since its arrival.
“We want to show what great transportation looks like, from Pittsburgh to Seoul and all the other cities in between,” Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said on media conference call. “I think ultimately progress will win. Our experience in cities around the world shows progress is inevitable.”