In late October, days before UberX ridesharing entered the Philadelphia market, a major player in the city's transportation ecosystem was at the peak of a crisis.
First Keystone Risk Retention Group, the largest insurer of taxis in the city and a taxi-owned company, went belly up, resulting in nearly a third of the city's taxis driving around with "wallpaper" insurance policies from a company with no cash in the bank to pay claims. This lack of coverage put everyone on the road at risk - from the cab drivers working long shifts for minimal pay, to their passengers, to the other motorists on the road, and even pedestrians. Riders, drivers, and the city were in desperate need of immediate help, and Uber was there to fill the transportation void.
Today, Philadelphia's taxis aren't any better or any safer. While some taxis may have found new insurers, the minimum requirement for taxis in the city is a mere $15,000 per injured person and $30,000 for all people injured in any incident. This is still less coverage than in most major cities, meaning victims in a taxi accident are lucky if even basic medical bills are covered.
This is just one of the many reasons Philadelphians need continued access to safe, affordable, and reliable rides, and why the city needs UberX to be a permanent piece of the transportation pie.
Uber's ride-sharing option, UberX, connects riders with local drivers through a smartphone app. Uber partners with the safest and highest-quality drivers on the road, and we have several mechanisms in place to ensure a safe and positive experience for our riders and the community.
First, riders and drivers in Philadelphia are protected by our $1.5 million insurance policy, which covers driver partners from the moment they accept a trip request through the Uber digital network until the completion of the ride. This is more than 42 times what is required of Philadelphia taxis. They are even covered when logged into the app but not on a trip by state-mandated liability insurance - at a level of more than three times what is required of taxis. The point is, our partners are covered every moment they're on the Uber platform, and that coverage is always greater than what taxis carry.
Before gaining access to the Uber platform, all drivers must pass Uber's criminal background and motor vehicle records checks, which go back seven years, compared with the five-year checks required for taxis. We have a zero-tolerance policy for DUIs, as well as other drug-related driving violations, violent crimes, and sexual offenses. We avoid common loopholes by including all federal, state, and local courthouse records, not just states where the driver has officially lived, as well as the National Sex Offender Registry.
Uber's technology also offers an incredible level of accountability and transparency unavailable with any other transportation option in Philadelphia. Riders will always see their driver's name, photo, rating, vehicle make and model, and license plate number, so they know exactly who's picking them up ahead of time. Riders also have the opportunity to rate their driver and provide feedback after every trip, which helps us to quickly correct for issues large or small.
Since Uber first arrived in Philadelphia with UberBlack more than two years ago, we've tried working with the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) to lower prices and introduce more environmentally friendly transportation options for consumers, while improving economic opportunities for drivers. Unfortunately, the PPA has shown time and again that its priority is to protect a handful of wealthy medallion owners by limiting choice for the millions of riders and drivers in the city it is meant to serve.
In stark contrast, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has demonstrated that it stands for innovation, competition, and choice, and understands the incredible need for more safe and affordable transportation options in the state. It recently recognized Uber's commitment to safety, with PUC Chairman Robert Powelson saying the Uber platform "can be of great benefit to the travelling public."
That's why the Pennsylvania legislature needs to stand up for riders and drivers in Philadelphia and take statewide ridesharing legislation across the finish line. I urge our elected representatives to take up this issue in the 2015 session and pass sensible legislation that ensures Uber remains available to all Pennsylvanians, including millions of Philadelphia residents and visitors.
After just six weeks of access to UberX, ride-sharing has been overwhelmingly embraced by tens of thousands of Philadelphia riders and drivers, and has already become tightly woven into the city's fabric. Let's ensure UberX ride-sharing is here to stay, so Uber can continue to create local jobs and move city dwellers seamlessly and safely.