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State appeals court reverses Uber, Lyft ban in Philly

For the moment, ride sharing companies UberX and Lyft are out of the woods.

An appellate court on Friday temporarily blocked the injunction of Common Pleas Court judge Linda Carpenter ordering UberX and Lyft to cease operations in Philadelphia.

Judge Robert Simpson of the Commonwealth Court, a mid-level appeals court in Pennsylvania, said UberX and Lyft would suffer "immediate and irreparable harm" if the injunction were to take effect.

In a statement, Uber praised the action, but said the General Assembly must act to create a regulatory framework for the ride sharing industry.

"After today's victory in Commonwealth Court, Uber is no longer subject to Judge Carpenter's cease and desist order," the company said. "Uber celebrates riders and drivers staying on the road in Philadelphia, but the Commonwealth still needs permanent ride sharing legislation from the General Assembly."

Carpenter imposed the injunction in a lawsuit by the Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania against the Philadelphia Parking Authority, alleging that its tight regulation of  traditional cab services and its failure to impose a similar regulatory scheme on ride sharing services had severely disadvantaged the cab drivers.

In addition to plummeting revenue, the cab industry says it has been hobbled by a sharp decline in the value of cab medallions, which once sold for as much as $545,000.

But the ride sharing services have proven adept at avoiding the grip of traditional regulators.

Uber says it already has a market of a half million riders in the Philadelphia area and more than 12,000 drivers.

"They are flouting the court's order," Millstein said of the decision by UberX and Lyft to operate, despite Carpenters injunction.

Millstein said the Parking Authority had recently moved a bit toward the taxi drivers' position of seeking less regulation of the industry. But he said the fees and assessments on traditional cab drivers still place them at a great competitive disadvantage.

"What is happening is the taxi market is shrinking and there are more people using Uber and Lyft," Millstein said. "Revenues are down 40 percent and at the same time they are raising assessments. The industry is a shambles."

In April, the state Public Utility Commission imposed an $11.4 million fine on Uber for operating an unlicensed transportation business, the largest in the commission's history. The commission said that Uber's defiance of its order to cease operations figured prominently in the decision.