Robert DeLucia, the owner of several Pittsburgh taxi companies, wants the Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC) to keep Pittsburgh Yellow Cab out of the North Hills area, which DeLucia’s companies serve.

The PUC regulates taxis in Pittsburgh and surrounding counties. Under its rules, existing taxi companies (nearly always Yellow Cab, which has 338 cars) can protest the creation of a new company or the expansion of a company’s service area on the grounds that it may take business away from them. The would-be upstart has the burden of proving that it won’t directly compete with the established company.

The result is a marketplace where political competition trumps economic competition. DeLucia, who voiced his objection at a July 20 commission hearing, believes Yellow Cab’s request to operate in North Hills is retaliation for his request to serve Allegheny County, where Yellow Cab dominates the market. Yellow Cab’s director says he is simply trying to fill market demand. The commission’s decision could take months.

According to the PUC, its regulations arose from Depression-era fears that too many cab companies would lead to competition so fierce that all firms would go under. “Taxi regulations are meant to protect the taxi company owner and the patrons of the state,” says spokesperson Denise McCracken. At the meeting, several local business owners testified in favor of “more cabs.”