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Jasmine Goldband / The Incline

Mayor Peduto told us Uber let Pittsburgh down. Here’s how Uber responded.

It’s a point-for-point defense of the company’s actions.

MJ Slaby

Updated, 3:09 p.m.

Last week, Mayor Bill Peduto told The Incline he’s been disappointed by Uber multiple times in the past year.

Uber didn’t appreciate that.

The Incline received an email from an Craig Ewer, an Uber spokesperson on Saturday morning. The note came the day after Peduto, in a one-on-one interview with The Incline published Friday, praised Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s decision to leave an advisory group to President Donald Trump as “bold” and “necessary.” However, the mayor, who has repeatedly been an advocate for self-driving cars, didn’t spare the ride-sharing company from criticism, saying that despite positives such as job growth, the city has “held up our end the bargain, but we haven’t seen much from Uber.”

And that’s where the ride-sharing service pushed back. Ewer pointed to Uber’s regular work with the mayor’s office on partnerships, an effort that existed before the #DeleteUber campaign, which was sparked after the company tweeted that it was turning off surge pricing at a New York airport as hundreds protested Trump’s immigration and travel ban.

Uber pointed to its sponsorship of the American Architectural Foundation’s National Summit on Urban Mobility, set to take place in Pittsburgh in May. Ewer said Peduto’s office requested the sponsorship, and Uber made the decision to do so prior to the controversy.

Tim McNulty, a spokesman for the mayor, confirmed on Monday that the mayor’s office “is asking many local companies, including Uber, to help sponsor the Mobility summit.”

Peduto spoke with The Incline about multiple positives in having Uber in Pittsburgh, but his disagreement with the company regarding the travel ban was the latest of several disappointments. Two others? When, he said, Uber didn’t want to promote a self-driving car pilot during the National League of Cities Conference; another, when Uber lobbyists stopped Pittsburgh from joining a bill that allowed Philadelphia to collect a portion of ride-sharing fees.

Ewer countered, saying the company was at the cities conference with a self-driving car exhibit at the conference and free self-driving car test rides for attendees.

The Uber spokesman didn’t comment on Peduto’s claim that Uber lobbyists stopped the city from joining the ride-sharing bill, but said Uber pays a similar tax to the Pennsylvania Utility Commission which covers the rest of the state outside of Philadelphia County. He citied the state motor vehicle code which prevents local governments from adding individual taxes on transportation like taxis, limos etc.

Ewer didn’t mention or respond to Peduto’s other complaint that he viewed a failed deal with Uber as likely the reason the city lost the Smart Cities Challenge last summer. Peduto said if the city won the challenge, Pittsburgh would have received $50 million in federal and private funds. If the deal with Uber would have went through, he said Pittsburgh would have got $15 million more from Uber to help the city “build out autonomous vehicles right-of-ways to help connect different parts of the city.”

Meanwhile, fallout from #DeleteUber continued Saturday as more than a dozen people gathered in the Strip District for Protest Uber Pittsburgh! Organizers said that they were happy that Kalanick left Trump’s council, but that Uber still has a long way to go in terms of helping its workers, many of whom are immigrants and refugees.

The protestors also called for Peduto to reject the city’s partnership with Uber and work toward on-demand public transportation. Separately on Saturday, Rev. John C. Welch, Peduto’s only declared Democratic opponent, criticized the mayor for his partnership with Uber. 

On Friday, Peduto and protest organizers called Uber’s offers to help employees and drivers affected by Trump’s executive order reactionary.

However, Ewer pointed out that an email from Kalanick to employees was sent last Saturday around 4:30 p.m. EST, while the New York Taxi Workers Alliance tweeted a call for drivers to avoid John F. Kennedy International Airport as a sign of support for protests at 4:55 p.m. In that email, Kalanick wrote that Uber was reaching out to employees affected by the ban and that the company was working to compensate drivers who couldn’t work due to the order.

The next day, Kalanick emailed drivers and said that the company would provide legal support to those trying to get back into the country and “create a $3 million legal defense fund to help drivers with immigration and translation services.” He has also pledged to buy plane tickets for stranded drivers.

When Kalanick decided to leave Trump’s advisory group on Thursday, he wrote in a note to employees, obtained by the New York Times, that “Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the President or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that.”

A previous version of this article didn’t name the Uber spokesman.