UberX is live (and free) in Philadelphia this weekend

A major insurer of Philadelphia taxis just went bankrupt and Uber's taking advantage.

Philadelphians can use uberX all weekend, for free, the company announced Friday night. Well, there is a limit — three rides of up to $20 until Sunday night.

Uber, the on-demand car service, launched its lower-cost, ridesharing option uberX because a company that insures more than 25 percent of Philadelphia’s taxis went bankrupt, according to an Uber blog post. That means that if those taxis don’t find a new insurer by Tuesday or Wednesday, they will be forced off the street, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

It’s an opportunistic move for Uber — whose drivers are covered by $1.5 million in liability insurance, as per the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s requirements — after spending $93,000 in lobbying Harrisburg over the issue of ridesharing. The PPA has so far fought and won against ridesharing. It shut down Sidecar in the summer of 2013.

We’ll note that this doesn’t mean Uber is operating uberX legally.

We have an email out to a PPA spokesman about what the PPA is going to do, but PPA general counsel Dennis Weldon told the Inquirer that the PPA would impound and fine “any illegal operators.”

It’s not clear if uberX will shut down if and when the PPA-certified taxis get new insurance. Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said Uber filed yesterday for emergency temporary authority with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to operate in Philadelphia. (That’s the same authority that PUC granted Lyft and Uber this summer, allowing them to operate in Allegheny County.)

As for drivers, Bennett said that Uber tapped into its pool of uberX drivers who were serving the Jersey Shore and South Jersey. Check out what appears to be an Uber email to local uberX drivers about this weekend here.

Uber is framing the weekend launch as a response to a safety concern: “As we head into the weekend when demand for reliable transportation is greatest and DUI arrests are highest, leaving people stranded and in need of a safe ride simply isn’t responsible. That’s why Uber is stepping in to ensure Philadelphians have the convenient and affordable transportation options they deserve,” Bennett wrote in an email.

Companies: Uber

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