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Pennsylvania Transportation Service, Inc. v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

July 3, 2017

Pennsylvania Transportation Service, Inc., Petitioner
Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, Respondent

          Argued: May 1, 2017



          P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge.

         Pennsylvania Transportation Service, Inc. (PTS) petitions for review of an order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), which granted, in part, PTS's petition for reconsideration of staff action (Petition). PTS filed the Petition in response to a PUC decision, which modified the description of operating rights in PTS's certificate of public convenience. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         PTS is a Pennsylvania corporation engaged in the for-hire transportation (taxicab) business. On April 3, 2015, PTS purchased certain call or demand (taxi) rights issued by the PUC to Concord Limousine, Inc. t/a Concord Coach Taxi (Concord). The rights PTS purchased on April 3, 2015, were originally transferred to Concord from Boston Coach-Pennsylvania Corp. t/d/b/a Boston Coach (Boston). With regard to the taxi rights transferred from Boston to Concord, an administrative law judge (ALJ) issued an opinion and order dated January 14, 2000, describing the transferred rights as follows:

To transport as a common carrier by motor vehicle, persons upon call or demand: (1) in the Bala-Cynwyd Section of Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County, between the Schuylkill River on the east and Wynnewood Avenue on the west and extending to Rock Hill Road, Bryn Mawr Avenue and Montgomery Avenue on the north and from points in that area to other points in Pennsylvania, and vice versa; all transportation to be on call by telephone to the carrier's office; and (2) in that part of the City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, beginning at the intersection of City Line Avenue and 52nd Street, thence continuing south along 52nd Street to Wynnefield Avenue, thence continuing south along Wynnefield Avenue to Belmont Avenue, thence continuing south along Belmont Avenue to its intersection with Montgomery Avenue, thence continuing in an easterly direction along Montgomery Avenue until the same intersects with the Schuylkill River, thence continuing [in] a northerly direction to City Line Avenue and the place of beginning; all transportation to be upon call by telephone to the carrier's office.

(Reproduced Record (R.R.) at P60-P61.)[1]

         On April 3, 2015, PTS filed with the PUC an application for approval of the transfer of rights from Concord to PTS. On March 1, 2016, [2] the Secretary of the PUC issued a letter notifying PTS that its application was approved, but that the PUC had modified the description of the transferred operating rights. Specifically, the March 1, 2016 letter omitted the portion of the description of operating rights in the City of Philadelphia (the City) and included the following note:

The transferor's authority originally also included an area in the city and county of Philadelphia. That area now falls under the jurisdiction of the Philadelphia Parking Authority [(PPA)], and this Commission has no power to grant the transfer of that portion of the original authority. Additionally, the words vice versa were included by error in the description. These words were only in the transferor's tariff, and not in the original order granting authority; therefore, vice versa has not been included.

(R.R. at P67.)[3]

         On March 21, 2016, PTS filed a "petition for reconsideration of staff action" with the PUC, arguing that the PUC did not have authority to make material changes to the transferred operating rights. On September 15, 2016, the PUC granted PTS's request, in part, by restoring the vice versa rights excluded pursuant to the March 1, 2016 letter. The PUC, however, explained that the PPA, not the PUC, had authority to alter or approve a transfer of operational rights within the City.[4] PTS subsequently filed in this Court a petition for review of the PUC's September 15, 2016 order.

         In its petition for review, [5] PTS argues that the PUC violated its right to due process by partially revoking PTS's operational rights without holding a hearing on the issue of whether the Philadelphia rights should be excluded from the certificate. The PUC contends that it had no jurisdiction to include the Philadelphia rights because the authority to grant operational rights within the City is vested solely in the PPA.

         Prior to 2004, the PUC was the sole agency responsible for the regulation of taxicab operations throughout Pennsylvania, including the City. With respect to taxicabs operating on a City-wide basis, the PUC's duties and responsibilities were set forth in what was commonly known as the Medallion Act, 66 Pa. C.S. §§ 2401-2416.[6] Concord and PTS, however, are considered "partial rights" taxicab companies, meaning they have been granted authority to operate in part, but not in all, of the City. As partial rights taxicab companies, both Concord and PTS were not subject to the provisions of the Medallion Act, but were, instead, regulated by the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa. C.S. §§ 101-3316.

         In 2004, the Legislature enacted an amendment to the Parking Authorities Law (Law), [7] which, inter alia, repealed the Medallion Act and transferred jurisdiction and regulation of taxicab service within the City from the PUC to the PPA. The amendment is commonly referred to as Act 94.[8] The PUC retained jurisdiction ...

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