Regulators have a long and lamented history of picking winners and losers among businesses and industries. But they typically at try to appear to be demonstrating impartial judgement when it comes to enforcing those decisions.

Not so in Philadelphia, where it’s alleged the city’s parking authority teamed up with members of the taxi industry not only to oppose legislation legalizing transportation network companies (which is technically legal) but also to conduct active sting operations against Uber drivers to impound their vehicles – which may not be.

The saga of TNC legalization in Pennsylvania generally, and Philadelphia specifically, has dragged on longer than in most other states and cities. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the state’s relevant regulatory authority, granted TNCs a two-year license to operate in late January 2015. However, that license explicitly excluded the City of Brotherly Love, where the Philadelphia Parking Authority retains authority to prohibit ridesharing.

Reporting by the Philadelphia Daily News suggests that, beginning in 2014, PPA members coordinated with a taxi firm, Freedom Taxi, to oppose statewide TNC legislation. That coordination included communicating about both legislative and grassroots strategy. Ultimately, their efforts yielded success. Viable statewide legislation is only now progressing through the Legislature in Harrisburg.

Uber has decried the coordination between taxis and the PPA on the basis of the PPA’s status as a regulatory body. At a news conference, Uber’s Pennsylvania general manager, Jon Feldman, declared that the PPA “is unelected, unaccountable, and now we know untrustworthy as well.”

Feldman’s frustration is understandable, but such coordination is not actually all that uncommon. Local government entities regularly seek to influence statewide policy.

What is far less common, and far more disconcerting, is the allegation that the PPA worked with the taxi industry to enforce its TNC ban. In the wake of a high-profile sting in which a young veteran had his car impounded, a taxi medallion owner admitted he had participated in sting operations run by the PPA. If true, the PPA’s credibility as an independent interpreter of its enabling legislation is suspect.

Worse, by empowering taxi interests to crack down on their competition with the support of law enforcement, the PPA throws the credibility of its enforcement actions into doubt. It is not unreasonable to wonder whether these stings are a matter of enforcing the law, or a function of industrial sabotage.

For its part, the PPA claims it has undertaken a “collaborative process” to reach a resolution to the TNC question in Philadelphia and that it is Uber that has refused to engage in good faith. But why would Uber engage with them? The recent emails demonstrate that the PPA has been captured by the industry it regulates and is a de facto arm of the taxis’ government affairs team.

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