Philadelphia Parking Authority’s (PPA) regulation of “partial rights” taxicabs: Reasonableness of regulations;  Whether PPA/PUC jurisdictional agreement as to partial rights taxicabs violates substantive due process

Bucks County Services, Inc. v. Phila. Parking Auth., 584 MD 2011 (2017) (unpublished), 8 and 9 EAP 2017, direct appeal

Bucks Order on Post Trial Motions

Bucks Memorandum Opinion

These are direct appeals by the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) from judgment entered in a bench trial conducted before Commonwealth Court Judge Brobson in which the Court invalidated: (1) PPA’s regulations to the extent they apply to taxicab companies that operate both within and outside of Philadelphia (partial-rights cabs); and (2) the Jurisdictional Agreement between PPA and the PUC as it relates to partial-rights cabs. Partial-rights cabs are to be distinguished from medallion cabs that operate within Philadelphia on a city-wide basis; medallion cabs are not at issue in the case.

As partial-rights cabs, Bucks County Services, Inc. and other petitioner taxicab companies operate both within specific, defined areas in Philadelphia as well as in all or parts of “suburban” counties adjacent to Philadelphia.   Before 2005, petitioners were regulated exclusively by the PUC.  Act 94 of 2004, as amended, transferred jurisdiction and regulatory authority over all cabs operating in Philadelphia from the PUC to the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA).  PPA thus regulates all cab service in Philadelphia, including service provided by companies like petitioners that have only “partial rights” in Philadelphia.  PPA has issued regulations that apply to safety, driver, filing, and other requirements for all cabs that operate in Philadelphia, including partial-rights cabs.  To handle the situation of partial-rights cabs that are regulated outside of Philadelphia by the PUC and inside Philadelphia by PPA, PPA and the PUC entered into a Jurisdictional Agreement that provides:

Currently, there are carriers authorized to provide taxicab service to designated areas within Philadelphia on a non-city wide basis. Section 11 of Act 94 provides that the PPA has jurisdiction over these carrier’s operations within Philadelphia. These carriers also hold authority from the Commission to serve designated areas outside Philadelphia. The Commission and the PPA agree that service provided under dual authority to/from points within the PPA authorized area (in Philadelphia) to/from points within the Commission authorized area (outside Philadelphia), will be regulated by the PPA.

Petitioners challenged the Authority’s regulations on grounds that there are material differences between partial-rights cabs and medallion cabs, and that the regulations that treat them the same are thus unreasonable and violative of petitioners’ substantive due process rights.  Based on the evidence at trial the Commonwealth Court agreed (“the Authority’s one-size fits all approach imposes a disproportionate regulatory and financial burden” on partial rights cabs).  Memorandum at 37.

As to the PPA/PUC Jurisdictional Agreement, petitioners similarly argued that it violates their substantive due process rights.  Rephrasing petitioners’ arguments as a claim that the Jurisdictional Agreement “is confusing” and “creates uncertainty regarding which” vehicles must be registered, subject to assessment and renewal fees, inspection, and potential stop and impoundment, the court agreed, finding the Agreement “unclear, vague, and inadequate” and thus violative of petitioners’ substantive due process rights. (“The Jurisdictional Agreement makes it impossible for Petitioners to determine when a taxicab is required to be in compliance with the Authority’s regulations and when a taxicab is required to be in compliance with the PUC’s regulations.”).  Memorandum at 46.

Appellants PPA and PUC raised these issues and other allegations of error.

The Supreme Court directed oral argument of this direct appeal.

For more information, contact Kevin McKeon or Dennis Whitaker