LANCASTER, Pa. -- After this week, Tuktuk Lancaster will halt operations because they were unable to get approved for a specific license from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
Tuktuk Lancaster is a transportation service that provides city tours in a 3-wheeled, battery powered vehicle to residents and visitors in the city of Lancaster.
"It gets people out in the open air where we can actually have conversations with people who are on the sidewalk as we go down the street, you can hear the sounds and you can have a down to earth kind of experience while touring the city without having to walk," said owner, Timm Wenger.
However, starting July 23rd, Wenger will put the brakes on his business until further notice because the PUC denied his application to operate as a common carrier in the state, which means he can't charge for tour tickets.
"We are currently operating free rides with donations to Church World Service, but that's not a sustainable business model," explained Wenger.
According to the PUC's order, passenger safety is one of the primary reasons they denied the application. The order states, "The E-tuk is not an enclosed vehicle, therefore passengers have much less protection in the event of a collision." It further states, "Because the vehicle only has three wheels, it lacks the stability of a four wheel vehicle."
"There was disappointment," said Wenger about the decision. "Some of their research was in my opinion, a bit faulty. As well as there were some unanswered questions that they had that could have been answered if they had just asked us before making their decision."
The commission voted 3 to 2 against the application. In a statement, Commissioner Robert Powelson wrote in favor of Tuktuk operating in the city. He states, "One of the most important duties of the Commission is ensuring that the transportation providers it certificates are safe, and I do not take this responsibility lightly. However, regulation is a balancing act, and the Commission must also strive to ensure that its regulatory structure is not a barrier to the new and innovative transportation services that Pennsylvanians demand."
As for what's next for Tuktuk Lancaster, Wenger says they will halt services starting July 23rd until they decide their next move. He says their options are to change their current business model or appeal the commission's decision. They are speaking with a lawyer to work with them on the appeals process but to help with legal fees they've created a crowdfunding campaign site. Their goal is to reach $4,000. As of Saturday afternoon, they were about a quarter of the way to their goal.