PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — They’re hard to miss — cars with a pink mustache mounted on the front.
It’s a ride-sharing service where customers use an app to call a driver and then follow the driver’s progress to their location on their smartphone.
Just one problem.
“If you are providing transportation for compensation within the state of Pennsylvania, you have to have a license from the Public Utility Commission,” says Jennifer Kocher, a spokesperson for the PUC.
While license applications are pending, none have been approved.
So the PUC has engaged in undercover sting operations in Pittsburgh.
“One of our enforcement officers used his smartphone to gain rides and then was charged for those rides to and from various points in Pittsburgh,” Kocher confirmed.
Bunny Van Meter drives her own vehicle for Lyft’s ride-sharing program, and she remembers one sting.
“I picked the guy up and I gave him a ride from the casino over to one of the hotels downtown,” Van Meter told KDKA money editor Jon Delano.
“He seemed like a very nice guy, but I guess he took down all of my information, my license and stuff which you can see on the app so it’s more secure, and then he wrote a citation, and I guess I’m expecting that in the mail because I’m not licensed with the PUC,” she said.
Nearly two dozen citations were issued by that one undercover agent.
“I feel like it was a betrayal of that trust in a weird way,” noted Van Meter.
Van Meter, who drove 13 different customers Friday morning, says it’s wrong to target the drivers who are just trying to make a living.
“I feel like we’re developing a little bit of a relationship for five or 10 minutes, and then they get out of my car and write a citation. It seems very dishonest and sneaky to me,” she said.
Lyft will make its drivers whole for any fines and has support from Mayor Bill Peduto for the ride-sharing services.
But not yet from the PUC.
“I just wish they would go through the proper channels to figure out what we all need to do to get along with each other,” said Van Meter.