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Sidecar car service shuts down

Unable to win the Philadelphia Parking Authority over from the start, on-demand car service Sidecar is calling it quits in Philadelphia, according to an email from the San Francisco-based company.

Unable to win the Philadelphia Parking Authority over from the start, on-demand car service Sidecar is calling it quits in Philadelphia, according to an email from the San Francisco-based company.

Sidecar, which launched in February and thinks of itself more as on-demand ridesharing since its drivers aren’t necessarily professional drivers, had been operating for free for since the Parking Authority fined the company $3,000 for not having the proper authorization.

The company was hopeful it could work an agreement out with the PPA but nothing has solidified, Sidecar said, so it’s shutting operations down. Talks with the PPA will continue, according to the announcement.

Since launching, Sidecar had been paying its drivers — who use their own personal cars — $15/hour and giving users free rides, as they were unable to charge. At an OpenAccessPhilly meeting in May, a Sidecar representative described it as a marketing effort while the legalities got figured out.

It seems they never will be. (Uber, which is a mobile app to connect existing limousine and towncar companies, has found a legal standing in Philadelphia). Sidecar, which is available in six cities, came to a similar end in New York City last month.

During the last four months, demand for the service had been high, said Steve Harrell, Sidecar’s East Coast director.

“It’s to the point where we can’t keep up,” he told Technically Philly earlier this month, referring to the fact that it was costly to pay the drivers out of pocket.

Technically Philly staff have used the service and, though rides were sometimes scarce, particularly in bad weather, drivers were frequently timely and friendly. In discussions, many drivers seemed to be waiting to see if Sidecar would actually reach an agreement of any kind.

Country-wide these efforts to disrupt taxi services — like Sidecar and Uber — have been taking heat. Sidecar shutting down is clearly a win for a taxi union uncertain about amateurs serving as a competing transit option.

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