- Associated Press - Thursday, December 18, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Ride-sharing service Lyft received regulatory approval Thursday to operate for two years everywhere in Pennsylvania except for Philadelphia, giving it 30 days to accept conditions required by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

The utility commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the company’s application. The conditions offered to Lyft were identical to those offered recently to competitor Uber, an agency spokeswoman said.

Lyft has until Jan. 20 to accept them, while Uber has until Jan. 5, spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said. If the San Francisco-based companies reject the conditions, they will be banned from Pennsylvania, Kocher said.

Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing companies use smartphone apps to dispatch drivers who use their own personal vehicles.

A Lyft spokeswoman said the company appreciated the utility commission’s willingness to work with it, but that it had reservations about a couple aspects of the conditions.

For instance, Lyft hopes the utility commission’s conditions will allow a driver’s private insurance to be the primary coverage during periods when the driver has opened the app but has not accepted a passenger and is not seeking a passenger, spokeswoman Chelsea Wilson said.

She also said the conditions do not allow vehicles older than 8 years old to serve passengers, while taxis are allowed to be as old as 10 years. Such an age requirement would wipe out one-third of Lyft’s driving force in Pittsburgh, Wilson said.

But Kocher said the utility commission has all but approved a new rule that will allow taxis and ride-sharing drivers to operate vehicles that are 10 years old. Otherwise, she said, the commissioners were clear that Thursday’s conditions were the final offer.

“This is not a negotiation,” Kocher said.

Lyft and Uber initially won utility commission approval to operate in the Pittsburgh area earlier this year after a fight with the agency and taxi operators.

In a separate process, the utility commission’s bureau of investigations and enforcement is seeking a $6.9 million fine against Lyft for illegally operating in the state before its approval in Pittsburgh.

The Philadelphia Parking Authority regulates taxis in that city and considers ride-sharing companies unlicensed cabbies because they do not have taxi medallions, which can run as much as a half-million dollars.

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