Corrected version Timing changes everything. When Uber started illegally operating its taxi-like network in Seattle in 2013, I applauded the company’s disruptive business model because it filled a basic demand for transportation alternatives. Over the next year, the Seattle City Council and Mayor Ed Murray worked in good faith to establish a regulatory framework that allowed taxis to co-exist…More
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Uber’s sponsored ads keep popping up in my Facebook feed. If you’ve never used the transportation startup’s black car or uberX services before, you might think a driver would pull up to your driveway looking like one of these ladies:
These women are extremely attractive. They’re also extremely misleading. And probably being used as click bait.
It’s quite possible for one to connect to an Uber driver and be greeted by a supermodel, but I’ve used the app since 2012 and I can tell you—you’re more likely to encounter a well-dressed, courteous immigrant from Africa or Europe. I’ve had exactly one experience with a female driver, and she was a very kind immigrant from the Middle East. I’ve no complaints about their abilities. Uber is popular because these drivers work really hard.
So why aren’t their faces featured in these ads?More
Within the last couple weeks, I’ve used taxicabs, Lyft and uberX. The drivers were all nice, the prices comparable, the cars clean. This consumer is convinced the increased competition in Seattle has helped to improve service quality. There’s room in Seattle for many transportation options.
So why are the ride-service companies taking advantage of their popularity and scaring people into thinking they’re going to be put out of business? The three have formed a coalition to circulate a petition to repeal the Seattle City Council’s new regulations, which include insurance requirements, driver training and a limit on each network to 150 drivers at any given time.
If the referendum passes, the new law would be suspended until voters have their say. In a March 28 press release, coalition spokesman Brad Harwood says, “The ordinance passed by the City Council would severely limit transportation options for Seattle residents and visitors alike by making it extremely difficult if not impossible for services like Lyft, Sidecar and uberX to continue serving the city.”
Again, I’m a fan of these services. But it’s hard to believe that they’re going anywhere when Lyft has been posting ads looking for drivers on Facebook. Sidecar posts ads on Craigslist. UberX, too. (See the photo to the left.)
The council’s cap does seem arbitrary and unfairly protects the taxi industry. But the other provisions passed by the council last month are important for consumer safety in this burgeoning market. Why rock the boat when the council has already told the companies they would be willing to revisit the limits? Seems to me Lyft, uberX and Sidecar should be sharing more of their data with the council and cooperating to develop commonsense regulations, not vilifying their entire effort to ensure safety.More
The war between taxis and ride-services continues following last week’s unanimous decision by the Seattle City Council to limit app-based networks such as Sidecar, Lyft and uberX to 150 drivers per company at any time.
On Monday afternoon, Geekwire reported that the Western Washington Taxicab Operators Association has filed a lawsuit against Uber for operating illegally throughout the region. According to the story, the lawsuit claims Uber “engages in an unlawful and deceptive business practice which harms the economic interests of taxicab drivers.”
Soon after, Brooke Steger, Uber’s general manager in Seattle, emailed a brief response to the media: “Uber remains focused on connecting people with the safest and most reliable transportation options in Seattle and protecting the thousands of small business jobs created by our technology platform. It is unfortunate that the taxi industry is not similarly focused on what really matters: safety of riders and opportunity for drivers.”
In other news, Crosscut writes that a nonprofit called Democracy Workshop filed an initiative last Friday with the city of Seattle to remove the caps. Seems like a premature, knee-jerk reaction. The better course is to let the city figure out how it’s going to enforce the limit in the first place Also, the ride-service companies should just cooperate with the city and prove whether that 150 figure is too low. Lawmakers have indicated a willingness to change the cap according to whatever the data say.
The Seattle Times’ March 14 editorial called on Mayor Ed Murray to overhaul the city’s outdated taxi rules, which coasted along for years before the onslaught of app-based transportation services. Last Wednesday, he responded to the council’s vote by promising a “long-term solution.” Good.
Here’s an excerpt from Murray’s blog:
I still believe that capping the number of TNCs is not workable over time, and that the specific number set by council is unreasonably low. I still believe that the existing regulatory framework as applies to taxis is unfair and in need of reform. And while the council’s proposal makes important progress by mandating insurance for TNCs at parity with taxis and slightly easing the existing mandates for taxis, I believe that these mandates are still overly burdensome.
But, in politics, as in life generally, the perfect can often be the enemy of the good. While the council’s proposal is far from perfect, it does make necessary progress on an issue that we cannot afford to ignore and which is too urgent to start all over on. There is still more progress we can and must make on this issue.
I plan to immediately begin working with stakeholders and council to build on their diligent efforts of the past year and arrive at a more long-term, comprehensive solution.
And what about the public’s reaction to all this? According to the unscientific results of a poll posted in this March 18 Opinion Northwest blog post, most responders agreed with the council’s vote. Vote again below to see the latest results.
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.More
One week after a Seattle City Council subcommittee‘s controversial and preliminary decision to limit ridesharing services to 150 drivers per network at any given time, Lyft, uberX and Sidecar have each come forward to reveal the number of drivers on their respective platforms.
During a Feb. 27 hearing, council members complained loudly that these companies were refusing to release that information. The city’s top officials have struggled for months to reach an agreement on how to legalize ridesharing, which has disrupted Seattle’s highly regulated taxi industry.
Now armed with a little more information, council members should revisit the cap number they proposed and at least raise the limit on the number of drivers from each company who can work at the same time.
A March 10 vote by the full council has been postponed until March 17.
On Friday afternoon, uberX sent out a press release revealing it “has 900 active drivers on its system. This number does not include drivers who have left the system or those awaiting background checks to join the system. That number also does not include UberBlack or UberSUV drivers.”
The service also said more than 300 drivers are active at any given time and continues to grow with demand. So if the city’s proposed legislation is passed, hundreds of drivers using their personal cars will lose the ability they currently enjoy to earn income through uberX.
Uber Seattle General Manager Brooke Steger’s statement:More
On Friday morning, the Seattle City Council’s Committee on Taxi, For-Hire and Limousine Regulations will meet (again) to discuss what to do with app-based transportation companies such as Lyft, Sidecar and UberX. The three-member panel had planned to vote on a draft proposal that would have capped the number of ridesharing vehicles that can operate citywide.
That’s good. It means the council can avert the risk of passing a bad policy and punishing innovation.
Probably helps that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray weighed in throughout the week to express his concerns about the pending legislation. He tweeted this on Thursday:More
On Friday, Seattle witnessed an example of how disruptive business models can thrive and gain popularity with consumers, but they can’t escape forever from the weight of existing regulatory structures.
The Seattle City Council’s latest draft rules to legalize and regulate ridesharing companies such as Lyft, Uber and Sidecar, leave room for improvement before a final vote in early 2014. City leaders say their intention is to not punish or stifle innovation, but that’s exactly what their proposal would do.
We need to keep consumers safe through common-sense regulations, but we also need to let the market determine how many taxi, for-hire and rideshare services are really necessary. Perhaps the city of Seattle can go back to the drawing board and adopt more aspects of the California model, which ridesharing companies like Lyft contend are fair and will not put them out of business.More
Seattle’s blossoming “shared economy” is disrupting the way many of us live, how we get around town and the places we choose to vacation. Turns out the upside of the recent economic downturn is a new willingness among more people to share their personal assets to make extra money, work flexible hours and interact with total strangers.
The growth of this movement is powered by a new generation interested in meaningful connections and sustainable living in a world with limited resources.
On Wednesday, a forum at Impact Hub Seattle brought together folks at the vanguard of the sharing economy, including John Zimmer of the ridesharing service Lyft, Holly Houser of the forthcoming Puget Sound Bikeshare, Lindsey Engh of co-working space Impact Hub Seattle, Joe Mele of StowThat (a storage rental company) and Kristina Bindi of Car2Go.
Hearing their stories got me thinking about some of my own recent interactions with what The Economist refers to as the peer-to-peer rental economy.More
No more studies. The Seattle City Council has enough proof to justify policy changes for taxi cabs and ridesharing programs. 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…More