Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.
December 19, 2013 at 8:00 AM
Reader responses to Seattle ridesharing proposal
Thanks to our readers for your thoughtful and interesting comments in response to the Seattle City Council’s draft plan to regulate app-powered ridesharing services in Seattle, such as uberX, Lyft and Sidecar.
In this Monday Opinion Northwest post, I argued that the city’s proposed efforts to regulate these popular new services using old-school standards punish innovation and do not increase consumer safety or choice. The council is considering whether to limit each of these ridesharing networks to 100 vehicles and many drivers to 16 hours per week. A vote is expected sometime early next year, so now is the time for a robust public discussion.
Here’s what some of you have to say about whether and how ridesharing should be regulated:
Absolutely. In an effort to live according to our environmental and urbanist values, my wife and I got rid of our car a year ago. We walk, ride our bikes, take the bus and use a number of ridesharing services to get around town. We rarely use traditional taxis because they are unreliable, especially when you need them most (i.e. rainy weather) and the service is usually not very good. Just try paying with a credit card and the driver has to run your card through an old-school carbon-copy machine. It’s like returning to last century. In contrast, the rideshare services have much better service (just ask the drivers how they like their jobs), are more convenient and are available when you need them most because of pricing that responds to demand.
By stifling these innovations, it becomes harder for people to become less dependent on cars, which contributes to the ongoing cycle of ever-increasing traffic congestion. Seattle thinks of itself as a city that embraces innovation and forward thinking. However, on this issue, our City Council is way behind.
— Gabriel Grant, Seattle
No. All this does is hurt the taxi and for-hire drivers who have worked hard to play by the rules. The stated demand is simply for a cheaper service. These new companies aren’t modeled on providing a cheaper service on a level playing field, they simply pick off the taxis’ best fares and do so without licensing fees, safety or insurance standards. This isn’t a new market segment against the established taxis, it’s the black market versus the law-abiding market.
Level the playing field. The current proposal is TOO lenient on these illegal black market rideshare companies.
— Pat Flanagan, Seattle
Absolutely. Ridesharing is a critical component of city living. The affordable, reliable and convenient access to transportation is essential for city dwellers. Furthermore, it provides a safe ride home after enjoying all of the amazing food and drink options throughout the city. The technology is out there — I’d love to see greater innovation from traditional cab companies to win back business and create healthy competition that benefits consumers and operators.
— Will Levin, Seattle
Yes, with regulations similar to taxi services. They are for-hire vehicles, and should be subject to similar laws as taxis. The fact the rideshares advertise that payments are “donations” implies that riders don’t have to pay if they don’t want to. It would be interesting to see what would happen if a rider chose not to pay. Compare with a bar that is exempt from Liquor Board rules if it only accepts donations, or a “donation-only” pharmacy exempt from laws pertaining to pharmacies, or a “donation-only” lawyer that can practice without Bar Association supervision, or…
— Robert M. Fleming Jr., Seattle
The city is not trying to stifle the technology. It’s just opting to start in the right direction to reward companies like Flywheel and Taxi Magic that do an outstanding job of using the existing LOCAL infrastructure instead of rewarding heavily VC funded corporations waltzing in and acting like the spoiled little brat. There is a protocol for setting up shop. Reward the technology and innovation, and help the smaller local companies get the resources they need: slick dispatch, proper training, etc. Don’t reward corporate bullying.
— Soto Rebelos, Seattle
Innovation, sure. But the innovation here is how to extract cash, not how to reduce traffic and energy use by ridesharing with sham donations. These businesses have nothing to do with ridesharing and should get no break over taxi regulation.
I’d sure love to see a true ridesharing tool. Thank you.
— Bob Powell, Vashon
Yes, we should have ridesharing and we should recognize that individual driver ratings have made most regulations obsolete. Unlike city inspections, a driver with a rating system is inspected by every person who rides in their car.
— Reed Koch, Seattle
The surest way to kill anything is to legalize it and let the government mismanage it.
— Larry Olle, Seattle
I don’t even care about ride sharing necessarily, but I love the apps and how they work. People use these companies because of the convenience they get on their phones. They request someone, watch the car come to them on a map, and pay with a credit card that includes tip. I hate cabs because dispatch is a nightmare, they never take credit cards and sometimes may not arrive at all. Plus, they tend to take the scenic route and drive recklessly. If cab companies could adopt this style of having apps to request and track them and allow customers to pay with credit cards, I would start taking cabs.
— Sean Wilson, Seattle
No, because the drivers are accepting money for giving rides. The drivers are earning money that is not taxed. Also, there is the question of liability insurance.
Since both drivers and riders are rated on the company websites, it would follow that riders that don’t donate enough, or at all, would be denied rides. That shows that there are no free rides.
The rideshare companies accept none of the responsibility the way licensed taxi drivers do. It is unfair competition.
— Ann-Marie G, Shoreline
Ridesharing should be legalized since this service is legit and liked by consumers. We are in the 21st century, where new innovations are taking place. It’s about time to eliminate the taxi monopoly, which they have had for two decades. By the way, the city is dead wrong about taxi owners/drivers’ earnings. Some of these taxi owners are making more than $100,000 a year. Just because they don’t show their incomes doesn’t mean they are living in poverty. If the city is not imposing restrictions on other businesses, then why is it protecting a taxi monopoly? Let businesses compete with each other, which will be healthy for our economy and good for consumers.
— Mohammed Khalid Ramzan, Auburn
“Seattle should let the market (not lawsuits) decide how many drivers are really needed.” Great idea. How about let the market figure out the whole thing? People will decide what is important to them. A 19-point safety check is probably not high on the list for a short taxi ride. If a company keeps showing up with filthy, broken down cars, people won’t ride with them, unless the price is right. Let the taxi licenses expire and then go out of the regulatory business.
— Dana Holgate, Auburn
Yes. I have been using Uber since the rideshare company opened in Seattle. To me, the quality that sets rideshares apart is customer service. I have never had to wait more than ten minutes for a ride, and it’s usually closer to seven minutes. On my last ride I left my smartphone in the car. When I got home, I checked my email and pulled up my receipt for the fare. I found a link to click if you left something in the car, and the driver’s phone number came right up. Five stars to the friendly and courteous Uber driver who literally went the extra mile to bring my smartphone back to me!
— Celia Stevens, Seattle
The term rideshare should stop being used to describe the services provided by Sidecar and Lyft. The service they provide is clearly more similar to a taxi service and has no relation to traditional ridesharing like carpools or vanpools.
True ridesharing takes place when people who were going the same direction anyway share the ride and reduce the number of cars on the road. These apps do not match people to do that.
The California Public Utilities Commission has designated them as Transportation Network Companies, which is a much better way to describe them.
— Jim Appleby, Orange, CA
No. If ridesharing is growing in popularity, there is a reason for it. The city is tired of the taxi monopoly and values a more personal, community-based experience. Seattle is filled with startup companies because we prize innovation. Do not start punishing them!
— Angela DiFiore, Seattle
One of the goals of limiting taxi licenses is to provide a living wage to taxi drivers. Fair enough. However, if these licenses can be bought and sold, they become another form of capital investment that can be (or often must be) leveraged by the driver. Even though limiting licenses drives up wages by lowering competition, it decreases net income because of high capital costs. If the goal of taxi licenses is to limit competition, they should be low-cost and not transferable.
— Jared Roach, Seattle
As a young adult struggling to afford skyrocketing rents prices and the highest gas prices in my generation — all while living in one of the wealthiest economies in the country — I believe with certainty that ridesharing businesses are an innovative and essential tool for the citizenry of Seattle. The City Council members are not the people trying to secure their inebriated cohort a safe ride home at the end of a long night, or the folks who are in need of a quick lift to the opposite end of town to pick up their duct-taped clunker from the mechanic. Once you have ridden in a clean vehicle that shows up consistently on time with a polite driver, why would you think to use an outdated, unreliable, and often extremely sketchy service that is so notorious for its flaws that it has its own Hollywood stereotype?
Scott Crawford, Seattle
It’s already legal with the public, that’s all that counts. I can’t afford cab rides, nor can any other average person. The market will decide, not the City of Seattle and the cab monopolies.
— Ash Conrad, Seattle