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September 6, 2013 at 11:34 AM

Seattle City Council must change taxi, ridesharing regulations

No more studies. The Seattle City Council has enough proof to justify policy changes for taxi cabs and ridesharing programs.

Taxi protest downtown Seattle, 1:00 pm, going north on Fourth Ave, Friday, August 2, 2013. (Genevieve Alvarez/The Seattle Times)

Taxi protest downtown Seattle, 1:00 pm, going north on Fourth Ave, Friday, August 2, 2013. (Genevieve Alvarez/The Seattle Times)

A new survey presented to the council Tuesday (and outlined in a news story by reporter Alexa Vaughn) confirms Seattle taxi drivers are in hot water. Many customers are complaining about bad attitudes and unreliable response times. Demand is rising for alternative modes of transportation with cheaper prices and better service.

See video of the council meeting at this link. Click here to be directed to the Taxi Research Partners presentation based on a public survey of 1,396 Seattle residents, institutional survey of 90 businesses, 55 secret shopper trips, and 13 focus group meetings.

Among the study’s findings:

  • The city’s taxi fleet operates at capacity Friday and Saturday nights.
  • Limos and rideshares are heavily used by younger populations.
  • Taxis rank behind for-hire and limo services in an institutional survey that looked at 10 categories, including: appearance, safety & condition of vehicles, handling of complaints and affordability. Out of 105 negative comments recorded in the survey, 102 were related to taxis.
  • In secret shopper surveys, ride-sharing services beat taxis in six categories, particularly for accepting credit card payments and raising the level of driver courtesy.
  • Limos, ridesharing and for-hire services are “growing rapidly” to meet demand.

We can’t maintain the status quo because taxi drivers are afraid of change. The market is forcing taxi companies to adapt or go out of business.

App-powered ridesharing services like Sidecar, Lyft and UberX may be popular, but that doesn’t mean those drivers should get a free pass, either. Read our June 19 editorial in favor of leveling the regulatory playing field for all, including for-hire drivers.

ICYMI: My colleague Sharon Pian Chan wrote a column Aug. 12 calling for an end to the city’s taxi monopoly, which only permits 336 licenses.

Seattle should lift its cap on the number of taxi licenses and extend oversight to the new car services to protect the public. Just like the county inspects restaurants for food safety, Seattle government should check that the brakes work, drivers’ backgrounds are researched and that insurance covers accidents. The city should ensure that drivers do not refuse fares to and from poor neighborhoods or discriminate against passengers.

City councilmembers have the tough task of choosing between innovation and tradition. They have to start somewhere — and soon. Laws are relative and can always be revised.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments | Topics: ridesharing, Seattle, taxis

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