EVLN: Pa.PUC's tiff w/ Timm's e-tuk tours of Amish country (horse poop OK, nEVs no)

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EVLN: Pa.PUC's tiff w/ Timm's e-tuk tours of Amish country (horse poop OK, nEVs no)

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% EV-ignorant PUC making archaic horse-drawn decisions (if it don't poop, then denied) %

Tour operator in Amish country gets in tiff over his tuk-tuk
August 13, 2017  Michael Rubinkam, Associated Press

[image  / Michael Rubinkam, AP
In this Aug. 8, 2017 photo, Timm Wenger poses with his tuk-tuk in Lancaster, Pa. Wenger’s application to run sightseeing tours in the three-wheeled, six-passenger electric vehicle was denied by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which cited safety concerns

LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania utility regulators are making a big to-do over Timm Wenger's tuk-tuk.

The 48-year-old entrepreneur wants to use his three-wheeled, open-sided electric shuttle to offer sightseeing tours of Lancaster, the urban core of a region best known for its undulating farms, horse-drawn buggies and large Amish population.

Standing in his way, at least for now: the state Public Utility Commission, which licenses for-hire transportation services and turned down Wenger's application last month, citing safety concerns.

"Instead of doing tours and growing the business, I've spent weeks dealing with the red tape," said Wenger, who has appealed the decision.

Tuk-tuks were virtually unknown in the U.S. until 2015, when a Denver-based company, eTuk USA, began distributing an electric version of the auto rickshaw that's ubiquitous on crowded city streets in Asia, Africa and Latin America. To date, the company has sold 86 tuk-tuks in 26 states and 49 cities.

Wenger and his wife bought a used, six-passenger model that had spent a year in taxi service in Arizona and designed a 30-minute narrated tour of Lancaster's 300-year history, architecture, people and places. The city brims with historic and cultural attractions and boasts the nation's oldest indoor farmer's market, part of a regional $2.6 billion tourism industry that attracts 8 million visitors a year.

Wenger lined up sponsors and planned an April launch, projecting he'd give more than 4,000 people a ride in his first year.

Then regulators put the brakes on. They voted 3-2 to deny Wenger's company an operating license, with the majority asserting his tuk-tuk "would be much more susceptible to rolling over than conventional vehicles" and that passengers would have "much less protection in the event of a collision." They also cited tuk-tuk crashes in England and New Zealand.

Wenger's appeal said the PUC relied on inaccurate information about the vehicle.

Classified as a motorcycle by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the American version of the tuk-tuk has safety features its overseas counterparts lack, said Michael Fox, part-owner and director of sales at eTuk USA. He said electric tuk-tuks are also slower — with a maximum speed of 25 mph — and a lot heavier, weighing more than 2,000 pounds.

In Lancaster, a city of 59,000 about 70 miles (110 kilometers) west of Philadelphia, Wenger's cherry-red tuk-tuk stands out against the well-preserved Colonial and Victorian architecture.

As Wenger chatted downtown a few days ago, his tuk-tuk parked along the curb, one pedestrian gave him a thumbs-up, another said, "Wow! I like this!" and a third asked, "Are you legal yet?"

"We're working on it," Wenger replied.

Lancaster resident Charlie Eberly walked by and wished Wenger luck. Like many, he has been following the tuk-tuk tiff.

"I think it's ridiculous the state's even worried about this," Eberly said. "The people who live here think it's a good thing."

That includes the mayor, police chief and director of public works, who gave the PUC a joint statement of support for Tuktuk Lancaster.

"I think it's a good idea, and fun, and there's not enough fun in life," Mayor Rick Gray told The Associated Press.

Wenger got a bit of good news in early August when the PUC agreed to reconsider his application based on new information supplied by his lawyer.

Separately, he's asked the PUC for a determination that it had no jurisdiction over his business in the first place because Tuktuk Lancaster seeks to offer the rides as entertainment, not as transportation from Point A to Point B. The PUC doesn't regulate ventures in which transportation is an incidental part of the business, such as horse-drawn carriages rides.

Another Pennsylvania tuk-tuk operator, Paul Shaffer, provided curbside hailing service in downtown Pittsburgh for two years until the PUC asked him to stop and apply for a license.

Shaffer said he hopes to win regulatory approval and eventually operate a fleet of 10 tuk-tuks.

"I'm betting my future that they're going to allow these to go forward," he said.

Wenger's also hopeful.

"Lancaster has become a destination," he said. "We want to show off a little bit of that."
[©  Hearst Newspapers, 2017 Hearst Communications]
Tuktuk Lancaster
Tuktuk tours are held to a different standard than buggy rides, PUC official says
Jul 13, 2017 ... some buggy owners charge for rides through the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside, Hagen-Frederiksen paused, then repeated: “Those are not regulated.”... the PUC “does not regulate services provided by vehicles that are propelled by animals.”

The issue of animal-powered vehicles has been addressed in “numerous court cases over the years” that determined that buggy rides are “a form of entertainment, not a form of transportation.”… The PUC on Wednesday denied an application by Tuktuk Lancaster, which offers sightseeing and food tours of the city, to operate as a business in the downtown area.

Commissioners, who voted 3-2 against the request, cited safety concerns as their primary reason for the denial. The tuktuk, or E-Tuk, is a three-wheeled, battery-operated open car more commonly seen in developing countries. Timm Wenger brought the concept to Lancaster. Although Wenger said accidents involving tuktuks are rare in the United States, newspaper records show numerous crashes involving buggies ...

Tuktuk Lancaster gets support from Mayor Gray, other city officials, in PUC appeal

Complete coverage: TukTuk Lancaster

Tuktuk Lancaster files second appeal, argues PUC erred in ruling against city sightseeing business

PUC agrees to rethink its denial of Tuktuk Lancaster's application to give city sightseeing tours

Lancaster officials are rallying behind a local family’s efforts to offer tuk-tuk sightseeing rides in the city.

A letter backing Tuktuk Lancaster will be sent to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in a few days, Mayor Rick Gray told City Council on Tuesday.

It will be signed by Gray, city police Chief Keith Sadler and director of public works Charlotte Katzenmoyer.

“We’re all in support,” Gray said.

Earlier this month, the PUC voted 3-2 to deny Tuktuk Lancaster’s application to operate as a “common carrier,” citing safety concerns.

Through a crowdfunding campaign, owners Timm and Kristina Wenger quickly raised more than $4,000 to appeal the decision.

Their attorney’s initial petition argues Tuktuk Lancaster falls outside the PUC’s jurisdiction because it’s an “amusement ride” and is not providing a point-to-point transportation service like a bus or taxi.

If that doesn’t work, a follow-up petition will ask the PUC to consider additional safety information.

City Councilman James Reichenbach warmly praised the Wengers for starting up the innovative business and persisting in the face of the PUC’s “red tape.”

He said everyone he knows who has tried the service loves it and expressed hope the PUC will reconsider its ruling.

Prior to the PUC’s decision, the Wengers had offered tours in the three-wheeled electric vehicle in exchange for donations, with all proceeds forwarded to Church World Service and Music for Everyone.

In light of the PUC’s ruling, the tours were suspended this past weekend.
[© 2017 LancasterOnline]

PUC rethinks license denial for Tuktuk sightseeing vehicle
August 3, 2017  Andrew Maykuth

Timm Wenger, owner of Tuktuk Lancaster, drives his three-wheeled electric auto rickshaw on a sightseeing tour in Lancaster. The company is appealing the Public Utility Commission’s decision in July to deny it a license

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission  voted Thursday to reconsider its denial of a license to a Lancaster company offering sightseeing tours in a three-wheeled electric rickshaw after the city’s mayor and other officials threw their support behind the project.

The PUC voted to rethink its 3-2 vote on July 12 to deny a license to Tuktuk Lancaster, in which it cited safety concerns about the open six-person vehicle. The company, in requesting a reconsideration, included additional safety information provided by the vehicle’s Denver manufacturer, e-Tuk USA.

The company’s filing also included a letter of support signed by Lancaster Mayor J. Richard Gray, Police Chief Keith R. Sadler, and Public Works Director Charlotte Katzenmoyer, who said the electric carts would not impede traffic because they travel at 25 miles per hour, the speed limit on all city streets.

“The city of Lancaster does not have any safety concerns regarding Tuktuk vehicles operating on city streets alongside heavier vehicles,” the officials said.

In a separate filing, the company also asked the PUC to decide whether the state agency even had the authority to require Tuktuk to get a license as a common carrier, saying the company’s transportation service is incidental to its primary business, sightseeing.

Tuktuk’s lawyer, Karen O. Moury of the Eckert Seamans law firm, argued that the company’s business was similar to horse-drawn carriages and other sightseeing vehicles that the PUC no longer regulates because their transportation service is secondary.

Tuktuk cited a landmark 1990 Commonwealth Court decision involving the Society Hill Carriage Co., which affirmed the PUC’s deregulation of horse-drawn carriages. The PUC later extended the decision to trackless trolley in Hershey that was fashioned to look like a streetcar, and a ferry in Millersburg whose primary business was tourism.

The vote to reconsider is the latest legal twist in Tuktuk’s saga. It initially applied in December for a paratransit license, and had been operating for free and asking clients to make a donation to a charity. It suspended operations on July 23 after the PUC’s license denial, saying it did not have the money to pay a lawyer to appeal.

But the firm raised funds from supporters through an online crowdsourcing campaign, and hired Moury, a seasoned lawyer who appears frequently before the commission and who worked as a PUC staff attorney on the original cases dealing with horse-drawn carriages.

The PUC can take up the reconsideration issue at any time. ”We hope they will act soon and we can still salvage some of the tourist season,” Timm Wenger, who owns the company with his wife, Kristina, said in a telephone interview Thursday.
[© 2017 Philadelphia Media Network]
Office of Communications  Bureau Director's Office
Tom Charles, Director Phone: 717-787-9504  ...
Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, Press Secretary Phone: 717-787-5722
Community Relations Phone: 717-787-5722  Fax: 717-787-4193
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