Follow us:

Opinion Northwest

Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: Seattle City Council

You are viewing the most recent posts on this topic.

March 25, 2014 at 6:03 AM

Taxi industry sues Uber; readers respond to ride-service regulations

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.

From left, Parmjit Singh, an owner-driver of a FarWest taxicab, and Said Fatah, a flat-rate driver, cheer as the Seattle City Council approves a cap and stronger regulations on Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like uberx, Lyft and Sidecar in a standing-room only meeting packed with supporters from both the TNCs and taxi/for-hire drivers at Seattle City Hall Monday March 17, 2014. (Photo by Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times)

From left, Parmjit Singh, an owner and driver of a Farwest taxi, and Said Fatah, a flat-rate driver, cheer as the Seattle City Council approves a cap and stronger regulations on Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like uberX, Lyft and Sidecar in a standing-room only meeting packed with supporters from both the TNCs and taxi and for-hire drivers at Seattle City Hall on March 17. (Photo by Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times)

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.”

Quiet support during the March 17 hearing is made by this person of Lyft with a small, pink mustache. (Photo by Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

Quiet support during the March 17 hearing is made by this person of Lyft with a small, pink mustache. (Photo by Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

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.

More

Comments | Topics: lyft, ridesharing, Seattle City Council

March 18, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Poll: Do you agree with Seattle City Council’s decision to limit Lyft, uberX and Sidecar?

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.)

Taxi driver Benyam Hailu holds a sign as he waits for a meeting of the Seattle City Council to begin, Monday, March 17, 2014 in Seattle. The Council was voting on rules and regulations that have pitted supporters of ride-share and other non-traditional transportation companies against taxi and for-hire drivers and operators. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Taxi driver Benyam Hailu holds a sign as he waits for a meeting of the Seattle City Council to begin, Monday, March 17, 2014 in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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.

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

Comments | More in Discussion, Polls | Topics: lyft, ride-services, ridesharing

March 7, 2014 at 6:04 AM

UberX, Lyft and Sidecar finally reveal driver numbers in Seattle

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.

Supporters of uberX wave cards as a person speaks in favor of their continued existence. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

Supporters of uberX wave cards as a person speaks in favor of their continued existence. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

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

Comments | Topics: lyft, regulations, ridesharing

February 14, 2014 at 7:23 AM

Seattle City Council postpones tough vote on UberX, Lyft and Sidecar

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

Comments | Topics: lyft, ridesharing, Seattle City Council

January 7, 2014 at 12:09 PM

Kshama Sawant’s hell-no speech recalls tea party

One of the questions swirling around Kshama Sawant’s improbable victory for Seattle City Council is her interest, and ability, to translate her activism into legislation. That requires tolerance for the oft-grinding process of law-making, and most importantly, getting four other votes on the council to pass a bill creating a citywide $15 minimum wage.

Seattle City Council president Tim Burgess welcomes Kshama Sawant / BETTINA HANSEN / SEATTLE TIMES

Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess welcomes Kshama Sawant. (Photo by Bettina Hansen / Seattle Times)

Judging by her inauguration speech on Monday, she’s not all that worried about it.

Here in Seattle, political pundits are asking about me: will she compromise? Can she work with others? Of course, I will meet and discuss with representatives of the establishment. But when I do, I will bring the needs and aspirations of working-class people to every table I sit at, no matter who is seated across from me. And let me make one thing absolutely clear: There will be no backroom deals with corporations or their political servants. There will be no rotten sell-out of the people I represent.

That’s a fine speech, but it implies no path toward anything but her sole vision, and implies that her colleagues on the council, and Mayor Ed Murray, are the “servants” of rich.

More

Comments | Topics: kshama sawant, Seattle City Council

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.

A member of the public speaks before the Seattle City Council's Committee on Taxi, For-hire and Limousine Regulatiion on Dec. 13, 2013 at City Hall Council Chambers. (Photo by Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

A member of the public speaks before the Seattle City Council’s Committee on Taxi, For-hire and Limousine Regulations on Dec. 13, 2013 at City Hall. (Photo by Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

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

More

Comments | More in Discussion | Topics: lyft, rideshare, Seattle

December 4, 2013 at 5:38 AM

Bruce Ramsey’s favorite columns, 2000-2012

pulitzerramsey20

On the eve of my retirement, Times Editorial Page Editor Kate Riley suggested I pick my favorites from the 342 columns I’ve written for The Times since 2000. Here are 10, with my own headlines:

1. “Games With Words,” April 12, 2000. This was my takedown of the World Trade Organization protesters, who used loopy logic to justify their disruption of an international conference.

2. “A Republican War,” April 9, 2003. I hated the Iraq war and wrote three columns against it before President Bush started it. This one was written while U.S. soldiers were on the way to Baghdad. In it, I predict that the conquest of Iraq would result in an electoral disaster for the Republicans in 2004. I was wrong; the disasters came in 2006 and 2008.

3. “Eight Parking Places at a Strip Club,” August 27, 2003

More

Comments | Topics: 2013 elections, democrats, iraq war

November 22, 2013 at 1:41 PM

Can Kshama Sawant move past rhetoric, work with City Council?

Kshama Sawant is a natural campaigner.

Clearly, she’s a passionate voice for those who agree with her. But does she listen to those who don’t? Because if she wants to create substantive changes in Seattle, she’ll have to learn the art of the political deal.

In this photo taken Nov. 4, 2013, Socialist candidate for Seattle City Council Kshama Sawant, right, speaks outside City Council chambers in Seattle about her support for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all workers in the city. Sawant beat four-term Councilman Richard Conlin. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

In this photo taken Nov. 4, 2013, Socialist candidate for Seattle City Council Kshama Sawant, right, speaks outside City Council chambers in Seattle about her support for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all workers in the city. Sawant beat four-term Councilman Richard Conlin. (Photo by Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

Each time she says something that resonates with voters, like this:

More

Comments | Topics: kshama sawant, politics, Seattle City Council

November 15, 2013 at 12:01 PM

Kshama Sawant lead shows no need for campaign finance reform

The apparent victory of Kshama Sawant over incumbent Seattle City Councilman Richard Conlin proves something other than that a socialist can win election in lefty Seattle. It also shows that Seattle Proposition 1, taxpayer financing of city council campaigns, was not necessary. It’s losing, narrowly, and that’s good. Taxpayers of Seattle, who are taxed heavily already,…

More

Comments | Topics: campaigns, district elections, kshama sawant

November 6, 2013 at 12:01 PM

District elections will shake up Seattle City Council

Seattle voters made a series of bold decisions Tuesday night. Not only did they oust a mayor, they rejected public financing for political campaigns (Prop 1) and created a hybrid district system (Charter Amendment 19) that will alter City Council elections beginning in 2015.

Incumbent city council members Nick Licata, Mike O’Brien, Sally Bagshaw and Richard Conlin retained their seats, but prepare for a shake-up at City Hall.

All nine members are currently elected citywide. With a new system consisting of seven district and two at-large positions, voters will be able to elect a candidate who lives in their neighborhood and is more accountable for local concerns. Most other major cities already do this. A similar set-up in Seattle should liven up city council debates, which some observers accuse of being increasingly stale because the current council is ideologically aligned. Members are also hampered by the fact that they each represent the broad interests of more than 600,000 constituents. With districts, they’ll be focused on addressing the needs of about 88,000 residents.

This will be a fascinating change. Among the key questions: Which council members plan to run again under this new system? Will they compete against each other or at-large?

Below is the Seattle Districts Now map. I’ve added text to indicate where current council members live.

7-2_map_large

Faye Garneau, the north Seattle businesswoman who bankrolled the Seattle Districts Now effort with about $200,000 of her own money, says it was money well-spent if it forces future council members to prioritize and be more responsive to neighborhood concerns outside the downtown core.

“It’s my city. I love it,” she said over the phone Wednesday morning. “I want to leave it better than when I entered it. And I think it will be. “

More

Comments | Topics: district elections, Seattle City Council

Next Page »