No big surprises with the Seattle City Council’s unanimous decision on Monday to cap technology-based ride-services such as Lyft, uberX and Sidecar. The council passed a two-year pilot program to legalize and limit each network to 150 drivers at any given time, and to raise the number of taxi licenses by 200 over the next two years. (Read Seattle Times reporter Alexa Vaughn’s news side story.)
As The Seattle Times editorial board argued in this March 14 editorial, the city should have focused less on caps — for both taxis and ride-services — and more on consumer safety and leveling the playing field for all drivers. Increased competition has improved customer service over the last year, and it would be a shame to see ride-services cut back services in a city where people are driving less and demanding more affordable transportation options.
The other takeaway? This likely becomes a political issue in the next city council election cycle. See Uber Seattle’s tweet after the vote, which was retweeted at least 100 times as of Monday evening.
— Uber Seattle (@Uber_SEA) March 17, 2014
Before Mayor Ed Murray signs Council Bill 118036, he should also consider convening a panel to review and revamp the city’s antiquated taxi regulations. In a timely statement released after the vote, Murray indicated he plans to get more involved:
“As Mayor, I will direct my staff and the Facilities and Administrative Services Department Director to engage stakeholders and experts outside of City government in further discussions. Based on these discussions, I then plan to submit to Council my own recommendations to both ensure customer safety and improve customer choice while leveling the playing field for all industry players.”
This entire process has put Seattle in the spotlight because its city council is the first in the nation to limit the growth of a wildly popular service. Hopefully, Lyft, uberX and Sidecar officials learned along the way that they must release data much sooner and develop better relations with the council. Several elected members showed a willingness to revisit the cap in the future, but not until the market has time to adjust and the networks agree to be more transparent about their insurance policies.
Below the poll and forum, look for a sampling of reactions from the council members.
Do you agree with the council’s decision? Vote in the poll below.
Also, share your thoughts on what should happen next in the Google form. Include your name, address, phone number and email. Contact information is for verification purposes only and will not be published.
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Councilmember Sally Clark, chair of the Committee on Taxi, For-Hire and Limousine Regulations:
“We have much more work to do with respect to driver training, safety and customer service, vehicle licensing and re-licensing. We will be working with Mayor Murray as we track the impacts on passengers and drivers. I’m glad to see his commitment to quick and focused revamping of the city’s for-hire regulations, and I hope King County regulators, our partners in all of this, are as excited as we are to crack open licensing.
Councilmember Tim Burgess:
I do not favor a cap. I voted for an amendment to remove the cap three weeks ago and again this afternoon, but that amendment failed 3 to 6. We will be monitoring the impact of the cap – and the broader changes in the industry – closely over the coming year.