Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in the case of In Re: Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission v. Community Car Pool Service, Inc., Docket No. C-844511.
Norman P. Zarwin, with him, Aaron S. Friedman, E. Harris Baum, Mitchell S. Kaplan, Zarwin, Baum, Resnick & Cohen, P.C., for petitioner.
R. Knickerbocker Smith, Jr., Assistant Counsel, with him, Michael C. Schnierle, Deputy Chief Counsel, Daniel P. Delaney, Chief Counsel, for respondent.
James F. Kilcur, with him, G. Roger Bowers, Eugene N. Cipriani, Amicus Curiae, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.
Judges Colins, Palladino, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Colins.
[ 111 Pa. Commw. Page 75]
Community Car Pool Service, Inc. (COMVAN), a for-profit, third-party provider of vanpooling services, seeks review of an order of the Public Utility Commission (Commission). The Commission initiated a complaint against COMVAN by order dated January 9, 1985, wherein it was alleged that COMVAN had violated Section 1101 of the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa. C.S. § 1101, by providing transportation for compensation between points within the Commonwealth without a Certificate of Public Convenience. COMVAN filed its answer on April 9, 1985, admitting the conduct of such operations but alleging that such transportation was not subject to Commission jurisdiction pursuant to the statutory exemption provided for by the Ridesharing Arrangements Act, Act of December 14, 1982, P.L. 1211, 55 P.S. § 695 (The Ridesharing Act).
The facts in this matter are undisputed. COMVAN is operated by its owner, Ms. Janine Tran, as a vanpooling service to commuters working in the center-city Philadelphia area.*fn1 In this service, fifty-five passenger vans owned by COMVAN are utilized daily to transport individuals from the suburbs to center city. Each passenger pays a monthly charge for the transportation.*fn2 The driver of each van is selected from one of these passengers. Individual drivers of COMVAN do not receive cash payments for their services, but instead, they receive other compensation for driving. More specifically, they get free transportation to and from their place of work since they are not charged the fare that other passengers must pay. In addition, any expenses incurred by the driver, including tickets for violations of the Vehicle Code, are reimbursed by COMVAN. The
[ 111 Pa. Commw. Page 76]
drivers are given 1800 miles of personal use of their van per year. Each of these remunerations is spelled out in a written contract between COMVAN and each of its drivers.*fn3 It is important to note that COMVAN pays parking costs, maintains insurance on each of its vans and also finances all repairs and servicing for the upkeep of these vans.
The Commission, in its complaint proceeding, argued that COMVAN was a common carrier as defined by the Public Utility Code and therefore, was required to obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience in order to carry on its operations. COMVAN, on the other hand, argued that their service was within the purview of the recently enacted Ridesharing Act. Judge Kranzel, in his Initial Decision, found that COMVAN's operation was not a legitimate ridesharing arrangement, but rather, constituted a transportation business which was subject to regulation by the Commission. The Commission, by order entered October 23, 1986, adopted the Initial Decision of Judge Kranzel dated May 21, 1986, and his ruling on Exceptions dated July 15, 1986.
This Court's scope of review of a Commission order encompasses a determination whether an error of law was committed or whether the findings, determinations or order of the Commission are supported by substantial evidence. Cohen v. Pa. Public Utility Commission, 90 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 98, 494 A.2d 58 (1985).
The case sub judice is one of first impression. The issue before this Court is whether COMVAN is a common carrier subject to regulation by the Commission, or, whether the service provided is governed by the Ridesharing Act, and is, therefore, ...