Erie Yellow Cab has some Uber competition.
If Travis Bickle had gone into business for himself instead of taking to a murderous rampage in the Bowery, he would have come to Erie and started the Erie Yellow Cab company.
If you've ever waited for a taxi at the Amtrak train depot at 3AM on Tuesday, tried to flag a cab after a late night a Sherlock's, or have been told - in no uncertain terms - that you were no longer worthy of a taxi ride when calling an hour and fifteen minutes after your initial request to get a status update on your ride, you understand the Bickle-ish nature of the cab company Erie keeps.
All that may soon change.
Uber X, the smartphone app-oriented-people-movers that have been operating in many of the nation's smartest cities, just received a two-year license from the Pa. Public Utility Commission (PUC).
Uber X has been operating, illegally, in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh for some time. Now it's official, but here's the deal: The PUC recognizes that the company has been running unregulated and calls this Uber's "last chance" to operate in Pa. because the company has previously defied cease and desist orders from the commonwealth.
For the uninitiated, Uber X works like this: you download the Uber app to your smartphone, find a driver near you by allowing the GPS on your phone to scan the area for a car, check out fare estimates based on your destination, driver ratings and reviews, and then place your Uber request. You can even pay by Paypal, if you'd rather not sling cash to a stranger.
There has been a spate of negative press surrounding Uber, but it seems to be more spin than substance. Regular Uber users in three different cities - Pittsburgh, Washington, DC, and New York City - had nothing but positive reviews of the service.
With the PUC license, Uber X is able to operate in most of Pennsylvania, including Erie.
According to the PUC, Uber X drivers can operate in all but nine counties - including Crawford County - and the City of Philadelphia, where the infamous Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) regulates the local taxi game, fines and impounds Uber drivers, and mandates the purchase of taxi "medallions" which can cost up to $500,000.
In spite of the local monopoly on yellow cabs, Uber is coming soon. So clean your phone screens and hold on. The future of livery service is here and it's going to be Uberific!
Contact Jim Wertz at jWertz@ErieReader.com or follow him on Twitter @jim_wertz. He'll message you back as he Uber's around town.