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September 6, 2013 at 11:34 AM
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 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.
August 14, 2013 at 7:42 AM
The city of Seattle limits the number of taxi licenses to 850. That number has not kept up with demand as unlicensed competitors such as UberX, Lyft and Sidecar have crept into the market.
These new services, powered by smartphone apps, should be regulated by the city for safety, but I also argued that it’s time for the city to lift its cap on taxi licenses in a Tuesday column, “End the city’s taxi monopoly and let Uber roll.”
A Seattle City Council committee is studying demand for ride services in Seattle and could raise the total amount of licenses allowed, change the strange division between “taxi” and “for hire” licenses and require the new services to be regulated for safety.
If the city continues to limit the number of taxi licenses, it could risk potential litigation.
In April, a Milwaukee Circuit Court judge ruled its taxi monopoly was illegal and ordered the market opened. In Minneapolis, a U.S. District Court judge also ruled its taxi cap illegal in 2006. The Arlington, Va., nonprofit Institute for Justice was involved in both lawsuits.